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Women and girls in science: ITU aims for gender equality

The 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science focuses on gender equality in science leadership as the foundation for a new era for sustainability.

This year’s theme on 11 February aligns with tech-related gender policies at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin applauded the new science and technology exhibition (STEM EXPO) featured at the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly this year. “Combining the ingenuity of women and girls in science with the power of digital innovation is key to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

See the SG’s video address highlighting some SDG digital gamechangers – women and girls in science who are accelerating sustainable development for everyone:

ITU – the United Nations tech agency – has stepped up its long-running commitment to change the pattern in a historically male-dominated field.

The organization aims, for example, to strengthen the role of women at its next World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-24).

Women in standardization

Seizo Onoe, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, on launching the “NOW4WTSA24” campaign, said he hoped to see women’s participation at the conference exceed 35 per cent.

The conference also aims for more gender-balanced delegations, more women as heads of delegations and more women nominated for leadership positions in ITU’s standardization expert groups.

The wider mission of the campaign is to make the world of standards development for information and communication technologies (ICTs) more attractive to women (read related article).

Learn more about the Network of Women in ITU-T.

Women in development

The Network of Women in the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (NoW in ITU-D), continues to develop and implement an exciting plan of activities in important and strategic events.

In December 2023, Dr Cosmas Zavazava, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, signed an agreement with the Communication, Space and Technology Commission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to support the NoW in ITU-D through training and mentorship opportunities.

This year’s theme for the Girls in ICT Day celebrations is “Leadership,” underscoring the need for strong female role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Although women now fill 40 per cent of high-skill occupations globally, their participation in ICT-related fields continues to be low.

Women are less likely than men to pursue careers in software development, engineering, technology research, academia or reach the highest levels of policy making. They also tend to leave science and technology jobs at higher rates than men.

While there is a leadership gender gap in every industry, the largest gaps are found in the STEM fields. Women in ICT often find themselves in junior or support roles rather than in managerial roles, with little opportunity for advancement. They are also less likely to hold an executive position, become ICT entrepreneurs, or be represented among science and technology policymakers.

To thrive in STEM, young women and girls in science must be exposed to women in leadership positions, fostering inspiration and breaking down barriers that hinder their progress. The Girls in ICT Day 2024 theme aims to address these challenges − encouraging empowerment and leadership development for a more equitable future in STEM.

Join the global campaign for International #GirlsinICT Day, celebrated on 25 April 2024.

Women in radiocommunications

The ITU’s recent World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23), benefited from the 3-years’ programme of activities of the Network of Women for WRC-23 (NOW4WRC23) that focused on maximizing women’s representation at WRC-23, future conferences and across the sector.

Women made up 22 per cent of ITU Member State delegates at WRC-23, up from 18 per cent four years earlier at WRC-19. This reflected 22 per cent growth in women’s representation, amid a 16 per cent increase in total delegate numbers between the two conferences.

“At every level, women have played and continue to play key roles in this conference,” said Mario Maniewicz, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau in his address to a Network of Women for WRC-23 reception. “These achievements are in no small measure the result of the work of the Network of Women for WRC-23.”

The Network of Women for WRC-23 provided a forum for networking, mentoring and knowledge sharing over the preceding four-year conference cycle.

Maniewicz – announcing the launch of the women’s network for WRC-27 – urged governments and companies to support continued progress towards gender equity, equality, and parity.

Supporting the new NOW4WRC27 will “help make a better world for everyone,” he added.

Women leaders at WRC-23

Women in leadership roles at WRC-23 included 114 heads and deputy heads of delegation, 10 ministers, 3 deputy ministers and 3 ambassadors. At the committee level, three chairs and ten vice chairs were women.

Other women in key roles included chairs of the 2023 Conference Preparatory Meetings (CPM23-1 and CPM23-2) and the 2023 Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-23) preceding the WRC. Women were also involved in conference preparatory processes in every regional group.

Celebrating a new resolution

The Radiocommunication Assembly (RA-23) – recognizing women’s continued underrepresentation in the radio communication sector, – passed a new resolution titled “Promoting gender equality and equity and bridging the contribution and participation gap between women and men in in the ITU Radiocommunication Sector activities”.

The new resolution calls on the ITU-R to strengthen and accelerate all efforts to ensure that all its policies, work, programmes, information dissemination activities, publications, study groups, seminars, courses, assemblies, and conferences reflect the commitment of the Sector to gender equality for the empowerment of women.

It further calls on Member States, regional telecommunication organizations and Sector Members to accord women opportunities that build their expertise and expand their opportunities in areas such as delegates, heads and deputy heads of delegations during the preparation for and at World Radiocommunication Conferences.

Joanne Wilson, Deputy to the Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, speaking at WRC-23, said: “We are hindered by the fact that there are too few women in radiocommunications, in electrical engineering and computer science, which are the fields that then lead to people participating as engineers in these conferences.”

She hopes the new resolution will have a big impact.

See Joanne Wilson’s video interview:

Look out for the new Network of Women for WRC-27 webpage – coming soon!

Header image credit: ITU
(attendees at a Network of Women for WRC-23 session)

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