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ITU at CSW67: Get girls into STEM and empower them with digital skills

ITU News 

Women and girls need digital empowerment from an early age, equal access to technologies and opportunities, and a seat at the table for digital decision-making, according to the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 

Doreen Bogdan-Martin, elected last September, is the first woman ever to lead ITU, the United Nations tech agency. 

Addressing the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) on 8 March, Bogdan-Martin called for three key actions to address gender imbalances in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and drive digital gender equality globally: 

  • “First, get girls into STEM at an early age, and empower women and girls with the digital skills they need to succeed.” 
  • “Second, ensure women and girls have equal access to digital technologies and opportunities, and base decisions on solid facts and data.” 
  • “Third, give women a seat at the digital table, making gender equality a must in every organization.” 

CSW67 concluded on 17 March with calls to prioritize inclusive education fit for the digital age. 

The commission — formed in 1946 by a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) — is the world’s principal intergovernmental organization dedicated to advancing gender equality.

Empowering all women and girls 

The ITU Secretary-General’s three recommendations on 8 March — International Women’s Day — relate closely to targets under UN Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Target 5.5 aims to “Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life,” while target 5.b would “Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.”

The ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, with Bogdan-Martin as Co-Vice Chair, has produced collaborative recommendations to close the gender divide in broadband access and digital skills and usage.

ITU’s Connect 2030 Agenda, similarly, promotes inclusiveness to bridge the digital divide and provide broadband access for all. 

Policy action needed

In other International Women’s Day sessions, ITU and the EQUALS Global Partnership joined forces with the Enhanced Integrated Framework to launch the Handbook on mainstreaming gender in digital policies.

Only half of overarching policies or master plans for information and communication technologies (ICTs) at the national level include references to gender or to women and girls, the handbook notes.

Gender-inclusive digital policies can change not just digital but overall socio-economic development outcomes for the better, said Cosmas Zavazava, Director of ITU’s Development Bureau, who launched the handbook and took part in the discussion by video.

The same 8 March event in New York, entitled “Bridging the gender digital divide through policy action,” kicked-off the new Network of Women Digital Ministers: Women at the Table and explored how gender-inclusive digital policy can change digital development outcomes.

The next day, Bogdan-Martin opened an EQUALS-hosted session “Digital Skills for Life: Building the talent pipeline of girls and women to benefit the digital economy,” which also featured a keynote by HRH Princess Beatrice of York, an advocate of women and girls in tech and a member of the Generation Connect Advisory Board.

The discussion that followed considered challenges to bridging the gender digital skills gap and outlined practical steps for ensuring that girls and women can take advantage of the digital economy. 

Innovative digital solutions for a more gender-inclusive digital entrepreneurship ecosystem were on display at the WEA Digital Innovation Challenge, which announced 10 winners on 13 March.

“We have to double down and empower women to take their place as equal leaders in today’s digital transformation,” said Bogdan-Martin. “It is our shared responsibility to create a more equal, just, safe, and sustainable digital world today — and for future generations.” 

Header image credit: Adobe Stock

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