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International Women’s Day: Why we need new benchmarks for gender equality

By Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General

Today, as part of International Women’s Day, I addressed the second meeting of the Women in Standardization Expert Group (WISE) – one of the networks actively fostering gender equality at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

As a highlight of the current World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA), the WISE meeting gave us the chance to recognize administrations, organizations, and individuals who have spared no effort to ensure women’s representation in ITU’s standardization work.

Women’s participation at WTSA reached just above 30 per cent this year. While this represents an improvement compared to previous WTSAs, we still need to do a lot better.

I count on WISE to keep encouraging the active participation of women – in leadership roles, as well as all key activities – in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector.

Networks of women

Gender equality is an established priority for ITU. Our The other two sectors of ITU – Development and Radiocommunication – are engaged in similar efforts, each through its respective Network of Women for the upcoming World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) and next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23).

With the next ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, PP-22, taking place six months from now, I am calling on staff across our organization, along with all our members and stakeholders, to make the active participation of women a top priority.

Our goal is for at least 35 per cent of the delegates at PP-22 to be women, ensuring our ongoing improvement over PP-18 and earlier editions. But just as importantly, we aim to mainstream gender perspectives throughout the conference rollout.

Women’s representation

Also at today’s WISE event, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Australia to strengthen gender equality and actively empower women for key roles at the plenipotentiary, ITU’s highest decision-making body.

This generous support will set new benchmarks for women’s representation, help raise women’s voices in ITU decision-making processes, and prepare for more women in leadership roles at PP-22 and beyond.

I thank Australia for its support and hope others will follow this example, joining us in breaking down gender barriers both within and outside ITU. On International Women’s Day, and every day, let’s encourage the active and meaningful participation of women in all ITU activities.

As the UN Secretary-General said, “When women are missing from decision-making, we see the world through only one perspective.”

Women’s perspectives are key in the tech sector, as everywhere, to help us see the world through all perspectives. Let us observe this day to recognize women’s achievements, the challenges they face, and the actions we can all take together to advance gender equality globally.

Based on Mr. Zhao’s remarks at the Women in Standardization Expert Group event on 8 March 2022.

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