Inspiring a new generation of women in radiocomms
25 years ago, the world adopted what is considered the most progressive blueprint ever for advancing women’s rights: the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The world has also embarked on a Decade of Action to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes Goal 5 on Gender Equality. But we have a long way to go yet, especially in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. According to a UNESCO report, women continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies. Only 35 per cent of STEM students in higher education globally are women, the report found. When it comes to increasing these numbers in the world of radiocommunications, the Network of Women for WRC23 (NOW4WRC23) initiative at ITU is taking on the gender equality challenge in a bold way. What is NOW4WRC? Inspired by the We Lead initiative, NOW4WRC aims to increase the number of women participating in and taking on leading roles, such as committee chairs and conference chairs, in the technical conferences of ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R). The main objectives of the initiative are three-fold: to strive for gender balance among delegates, to prepare women delegates in key roles for the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), and to grow the ITU women’s community in terms of contributions to the crucial conference and the technical field of radiocommunications, in general.
A major milestone was reached last year, when an official Declaration to promote gender equality, equity and parity in the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Sector was adopted during WRC-19 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
As a follow-up to the implementation of the WRC-19 Gender Declaration, the Radiocommunication Advisory Group (RAG) – which reviews ITU-R priorities and strategies – established a Correspondence Group on Gender to consider how to initiate and implement the Declaration before the next Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-23). In her own words Here’s what women contributors to NOW4WRC had to say about the initiative’s role in achieving gender equality in the radiocommunications world:
Cindy Cook – Canada:
“I believe the Declaration was a great first step in raising awareness on gender issues in the ITU-R. Now we must carry that momentum forward. There [are] a couple of things in the Declaration that are tangible [and] we can take next: the drafting and approval hopefully, at RA-23, of a Resolution on Gender Equality, Equity and Parity in the ITU-R.”
Sahiba Hasanova – Azerbaijan:
“I would like to thank all Member States who worked hard for [the] adoption of this Gender Declaration. The aim of this Declaration is to encourage a large participation of women to attend ITU-R meetings and conferences as women chairs and vice-chairs. As a follow up [to the] WRC-23 Declaration we need more women and mentors to help more women and encourage them to be chairs and vice-chairs of ITU-R.”
Luisa La Franceschina – Italy and Chair of the RAG Correspondence Group on Gender:
“We need more women because female and male minds are absolutely complementary and there is absolutely no way to advance without the support of female intelligence and also intuition. Nothing can be done without [adding] the female approach.’” Exceeding 30 per cent
Another key aim of the NOW4WRC23 initiative is to exceed the 30 per cent threshold of women in key roles at ITU-R meetings and conferences, which is deemed necessary to effect tangible change.
Luciana Camargos – Brazil:
“The delegations need to send more women. 20 per cent of women delegates is not very high. Unless the delegations themselves commit to send more women to the meetings, it’s going to be difficult to overcome that barrier. That [effort] needs to come from the countries.”
Carol Wilson – Australia and Chair of ITU-R Study Group 3:
“I think it’s important to have the broadest representation of everyone with talents and skills in an event like the WRC or in the ITU-R meetings. I think that we need the widest number of experts that we can get and that we need to draw not just from men but from women as well. I know many women who have a lot of skills and background and technical expertise to offer to this process.”
Chantal Beaumier – Canada, Chair of the Radio Regulations Board (RRB):
“In Canada we’ve always made an effort from the government side at the very least to have strong representation from women and all my colleagues that have been involved in ITU-R activities. It starts with the national delegations, administrations and regulators encouraging these women to participate in these meetings. For those that actually come to the meetings there is a lot of great talent out there and great potential to assume our responsibilities. We’re certainly pleased at the RRB we’ve seen there is more women representation on the committee on the Board so we hope it will continue but there is still a lot of work to do there is no doubt.”
Basebi Jaqui Mosinyi – Botswana:
”We are available as the Network of Women to mentor you through all the processes which are quite complicated. So, come close so that we are able to assist you and launch you even further. We are here to assist.” The NOW4WRC23 initiative has the strong support of Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, who said: “I see the Radiocommunication Sector benefiting immensely from gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women through ICT. In this Decade of Action for the 2030 Agenda, we must accelerate women’s participation in the digital economy if we are to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equity.” NOW4WRC23 is open to participation by any representative of an ITU Member state, ITU-R Sector, including SME or Academia, Member or ITU-R Associate and active participation is strongly encouraged. Learn more about the initiative and get involved here.
Pictured above: Ms. Brandy Joe SYKES, delegate at the Radiocommunication Assembly 2019 held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 21 to 25 October 2019.
Image credit: H. Essawy via ITU