This International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, we join UN Women and the United Nations in celebrating under the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
Do technology and innovation benefit women and men equally? No, they improve quality of life and create opportunities for many, but there is a glitch in the system. In the digital age our system still perpetuates bias, inequality and violence in the lives of women and girls.
Technological progress is outpacing progress towards gender equality, this is not progress. From the earliest days of computing to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, women have made untold contributions to the digital world in which we increasingly live. Their accomplishments have been against all odds, in a field that has historically neither welcomed nor appreciated them. Today, a persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential.
The lack of exposure to education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for our women and girls remains a major barrier to participation in technological advancement and governance.
As our daily lives become increasingly digitalized, gender gaps in digital access threaten to leave women and girls even further behind. However, digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls and other marginalized groups. Thus, eliminating the pervasive threat of online gender-based violence and giving access to legal recourse.
Efforts to close these gaps have led to improvements in the gender parity score, the absolute gap between men and women’s access has actually increased by 20 million since 2019. Today, 63 per cent of women have access to the internet, compared to 69 per cent of men. Women are 12 per cent less likely to own a mobile phone, a figure virtually unchanged since before the pandemic.
This 8 March, we are calling on government, activists and the private sector alike to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable and eliminate on-line gender base violence. While we face a multiplicity of global crises, we have a chance to create a better future—not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth.