Women

Cracking the Code to a Fairer Digital Future for Women

The inequalities faced by women in the real world are also prevalent online. On International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, the UN is raising awareness of these disparities, and putting forward a vision of fairer digital future for all.

Despite the increasing digitalization of everyone’s daily lives, the digital gender gap has grown; globally around 63 per cent of women have access to the internet today, compared to 69 per cent of men.

Across all areas of digital technology, women and girls remain under-represented, from coding and creating, to accessing services, and drafting regulations and policy. This disparity comes at a considerable cost: UN Women estimates that, if women’s exclusion from the digital sphere was ended, some $1 trillion could be added to the GDP of low and middle-income countries.

And women and girls are often put off by an actively hostile environment in the sector; on average, women are paid 21 per cent less than men, they face considerably lower rates of promotion, and nearly half report workplace harassment.

These statistics underline the urgent need to change the online environment, and widen access to women and girls. The UN is backing a wide range of projects supporting this aim; here are some examples.

‘With little to no resources, I can make a huge difference’

When she learned that her high school in Eswatini offered classes on information and communication technologies, student Sizolwethu Maphanga was not interested: as far as she could tell, there was no connection with the real-world challenges she saw facing her community and country, something that research has shown is a key driver of many girls’ career choices.

“I was fortunate enough to have enrolled,” she says, “but I was never that much in love with it.”

Everything changed for Sizolwethu when she attended a coding camp run by the African Girls Can Code Initiative. There, she says, her passion for tech grew as the camp “opened my eyes to the game changing innovations that can impact Africa. I learned that, with little to no resources, I can make a huge difference if passion and determination are there.”

Find out more about how the UN-supported camp, which has ignited a spark in the minds of hundreds of girls, here.

© Ed Pagria

Globally, around 63 per cent of women have access to the internet today, compared to 69 per cent of men.

The gender games: WeRise

Ending gender inequality is not something to play around with, but in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), WeRise, a new app is proving that online games can raise awareness and foster discussions on gender roles and stereotypes.

The app offers games and puzzles, and a social platform for users to share posts, interact on forums, and call for action, on topics linked to gender. Since it launched in July 2022, it has been downloaded thousands of times, and is the number on development organized-sponsored app in the region.

Designed as a “youth for youth” project, and supported by UN Women, WeRise was developed by over 100 young people from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, and is available in Arabic, English and French.

Read the full story here.

© Ed Pagria

Victims of domestic violence may be unable to access support, if their abusers control their communication devices.

SOS in Serbia

The lockdowns imposed by many countries in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant rise in domestic violence, with women finding it even harder to escape their abusers. Often, their phones are monitored and, if it is discovered that they have tried to call or text a support organization, they can face even greater risks.

A Serbian organization, SOS Network of Vojvodina, decided to create an app that would allow women to report violence and seek help without their abuser noticing, even if their communications were being monitored.

The app, which is disguised to prevent detection, contains an SOS button enabling users to call, or live chat, with support organizations offering psychosocial support, counselling, and referral to places that can supply other services.

“Giving women the choice to decide for themselves how and whom they will contact in cases of violence was both the biggest challenge and the biggest motivation,” says SOS Network of Vojvodina President Biljana Stepanov. “It sends the message to women that there is a way out,” says Biljana. “They are not alone.”

Read more here.

International Women’s Day a ‘call to action’: UN chief

  • In his message for the Day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the digital divide to be closed, and for the representation of women and girls in science and technology to be increased.

  • “When women are under-represented in developing new technologies, discrimination may be baked in from the start,” added Mr. Guterres, noting that, whilst technology can expand pathways to education and opportunities for women and girls, it can also be used to amplify abuse and hatred.

  • He described International Women’s Day as a “call to action” on women’s rights, including protection against sexual exploitation and abuse, and accelerating women’s full participation and leadership.

Source

12 Comments

  1. As a woman working in the tech industry, I can attest to the challenges we face in achieving gender equality online. It’s disheartening to see the digital gender gap widen despite the increasing digitalization. We need to address the hostile environment and promote equal opportunities for women and girls in the digital sphere. The initiatives by the UN are crucial in paving the way towards a fairer digital future for all.

  2. As a woman working in the tech industry, I can attest to the challenges we face in digital spaces. It’s disheartening to see the persistent gender gap and the hostile environment that discourages many of us from fully engaging. I strongly believe that creating a fairer digital future for women is not just necessary, but crucial for societal progress.

  3. As a woman working in the tech industry, I can attest to the challenges highlighted in this article. It’s disheartening to see the persistent gender gap in digital technology, both in terms of access and opportunities. We need concrete actions to level the playing field and create a more inclusive digital future for all.

  4. It is disheartening to see the growing digital gender gap despite the increasing digitalization of our lives. Women and girls continue to face under-representation in various digital fields, leading to significant economic costs. The statistics on pay disparity and workplace harassment highlight the pressing need to create a more inclusive and supportive online environment for women and girls.

  5. As a woman working in the tech industry, I fully agree with the importance of closing the digital gender gap. It’s disheartening to see the disparities in access, representation, and treatment faced by women online. The initiatives highlighted by the UN are crucial in paving the way for a fairer digital future for all.

  6. How can we ensure that more women and girls have access to coding and digital technology opportunities in order to bridge this gender gap?

    1. To bridge the gender gap in coding and digital technology opportunities for women and girls, we need to prioritize education and training initiatives tailored towards them. By providing mentorship programs, scholarships, and creating safe spaces for learning, we can empower more females to excel in the digital world.

  7. As a woman in the tech industry, I can attest to the challenges we face. It’s disheartening to see the digital gender gap widening, and the hostile environment that many of us navigate daily. We need concrete actions to level the playing field and empower women and girls in the digital sphere.

  8. It’s disheartening to see the growing digital gender gap and the systemic barriers women face in the online world. Women must be encouraged and supported to play a more prominent role in digital spaces, not only for their own empowerment but also for the economic benefit it brings. This shift to a more inclusive digital future is long overdue.

  9. How can we ensure equal opportunities in the digital world for women and girls?

    1. To ensure equal opportunities in the digital world for women and girls, we need to prioritize initiatives that focus on promoting digital literacy, providing mentorship programs, and fostering a supportive community. By encouraging participation in coding workshops, offering scholarships for tech education, and creating safe spaces online, we can bridge the digital gender gap and pave the way for a more inclusive and fair digital future.

  10. As a woman in the digital industry, I fully support the UN’s efforts to address the gender gap online. It’s disheartening to see the disparities in access and opportunities for women compared to men. We need concrete actions to create a more inclusive and fair digital future for everyone.

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