Women’s Empowerment in the Information Society


Speech by ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

ITU WSIS Forum 2013

High Level Dialogue 1

Women’s Empowerment in the Information Society :
Systemic, Scalable Strategies

14 May 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

p05It is a tremendous pleasure to be with you this afternoon for this very important High Level Dialogue on Women’s Empowerment in the Information Society.

In the second decade of the 21st century, we are all very much aware of the power and importance of ICTs in every aspect of our lives – and ICTs increasingly play a vital role in all societies, in all countries.

ICTs are also a huge enabler for women in all communities – and especially in the developing world.

Even a simple mobile phone enables women to stay in touch with family and friends; can provide women with access to all kinds of valuable information, such as healthcare and reproductive information; and can be a valuable tool for marketing skills and selling products and services.

With ICTs we can deliver basic education in areas such as literacy, entrepreneurship and e-agriculture in ways never before imagined – and given that women do most of the world’s work, this offers enormous potential for improving the lives not just of women but of all the world’s people.

I am proud to be able to report that ITU – the UN specialized agency for ICTs – has partnered with the Telecentre.org Foundation on a Women’s Digital Literacy Campaign.

This campaign, launched in 2011, is on track to train one million women in basic ICT skills – and indeed by March this year we were already past the two-thirds mark, with 680,000 women from 147 organizations trained in 85 countries.

BBC-educationFor its part, the UN Broadband Commission – which was created three years ago by ITU and UNESCO – set up a Working Group on Broadband and Gender in September last year, in answer to a direct appeal from Geena Davis, to harness the power of broadband to empower women and girls.

Geena Davis, Academy Award-winning actor and advocate appeals to UN Broadband Commission to harness broadband to empower girls and women, calling on the Broadband Commission to set up a new working group on Broadband and Gender.

New York, 23 September, 2012 — Academy Award-winning actor and advocate Geena Davis addressed the sixth meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in New York today with a call to the Commission’s 60 top-level members to use the power of broadband to bring new opportunities to women and girls worldwide.

Ms Davis appealed to the Commission to set up a special focus group on gender that would undertake research on the many ways broadband networks and technologies could be used to empower girls and women — for example, through access to education, health care and useful information such as farming advice, climate monitoring and commodity prices, but also as tools to foster female entrepreneurship and new business opportunities.
“Broadband is having a transformational impact on the media and entertainment industry, but its importance reaches much further than that…Broadband will be key to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, providing women with the means to educate themselves and their children; improve their own health and the health of their families and communities; start their own businesses; keep themselves safe; and innovate to build and shape the future they want. This Commission can play a powerful advocacy role by speaking out strongly for the greater engagement of girls and women in the digital revolution taking place all around us,” said Ms Davis.

Her call to action was enthusiastically received by the Commission which immediately agreed to establish a special working group on gender and technology with a specific focus on how to better engage and empower girls. The working group will be headed by Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. It received a spontaneous donation of USD 1 million from Commissioner Reza Jafari, with several members of the commission agreeing to prepare a special report on opportunities and barriers for girls and women, to be presented at the next meeting of the Commission in Mexico City in March 2013.

“The creation of this new Broadband Commission Working Group is a positive step forward in extending the benefits of broadband to all, and accelerating progress in meeting the MDGs — several of which focus on gender-related issues,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General. “We are grateful for the support of committed, high-profile ambassadors like Ms Davis, who greatly increase the impact and reach of our message about the catalytic role ICTs can play in gender empowerment.”

In June this year, Ms Davis was named ITU’s Special Envoy for Women and Girls in the field of technology. In this role she is actively promoting ITU’s new ‘Tech Needs Girls’ campaign through public appearances at high-profile events, where she speaks on the importance of extending access to technology to women worldwide, reinforces the importance of positive gender role models, and highlights the many exciting career opportunities available to young women in the high-tech sector.

The three-year Tech Needs Girls campaign will raise awareness worldwide of the role technology can play in empowering women. Through online multimedia content, major advocacy events around the globe and key partnerships with industry, government, civil society, media and other UN agencies, the campaign will highlight the potential of technology to transform women’s lives.

Earlier this year ITU launched a multilingual web portal focused on helping girls and women access training, job opportunities and career information in the fast-growing information and communication (ICT) sector.

The Girls in ICT Portal houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarship programmes and some 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

Full text of Geena Davis’s speech to the Broadband Commission: http://www.broadbandcommission.org/wo…

Photos from the sixth meeting of the Broadband Commission can be seen at: www.flickr.com/photos/itupictures/sets/7­2157631556083581/

For more information on the Broadband Commission, visit: www.broadbandcommission.org

For more information on the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media visit: www.seejane.org.

Follow the Broadband Commission on Facebook

The working group had its first formal meeting in Mexico just over a month ago, chaired by Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator, and I was very pleased to have been able to take part myself, along with the co-Chair of the Broadband Commission, Carlos Slim.

The Commission has also endorsed a new advocacy target, to achieve gender equality in access to broadband by 2020.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In a world where there is a large and growing skills shortage in the ICT sector, we need to get more girls involved in science, technology, engineering and maths – the STEM subjects – and we need to get more girls taking an interest in ICT careers.

ITU has adopted a three-pronged approach to increasing the number of women in ICT careers:

Firstly, to create demand among girls and women for careers in ICT, especially through our annual Girls in ICT Day initiative, which takes place on the fourth Thursday in April;

Secondly, to ensure a better supply of STEM education to girls and women; and

Thirdly, to achieve long-term sustainability by encouraging ICT businesses to attract, recruit, retain and – last, but very much not least – promote women. This involves issues such as pay gaps, recruitment strategies, making the work environment more attractive to women, and of course the work-life balance.

How can we move this strategy forward?

As you may know, UN Women and the UN Global Compact developed a core set of principles for all kinds of businesses offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

These principles are known as the Women’s Empowerment Principles. The WEPs were developed following an international multi-stakeholder consultation process, which began in March 2009 and culminated in their launch on International Women’s Day in March 2010.

Nearly 600 companies around the world have now signed on to these principles.

One of the recommendations made by ITU during the discussions on Women’s ICT Careers, at the Women, ICT and Development meeting in Washington DC in January, was to develop a Roadmap for the Tech Sector.

This roadmap would address the challenges and barriers to engaging more girls in STEM studies, as well as those that prevent women from fully-engaging in ICT careers and advancing to the highest levels.

I am therefore delighted to be able to announce that ITU, UN Women and the UN Global Compact have agreed to launch an international multi-stakeholder consultation process to develop a Tech Sector Roadmap designed to tackle just these challenges.

We will look forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders – including WICTAD and the Broadband Commission Working Group on Gender – as we develop this roadmap.

ITU looks forward to bringing its experience in promoting girls into the ICT pipeline and women into ICT careers.

In addition, ITU can promote the Tech Sector Roadmap among its 700+ Sector Members, which include many of the world’s leading ICT companies and top academic institutions.

I am sure that my colleague here from UN Women will also wish to share her thoughts on the Tech Sector Roadmap.

Distinguished guests,

This high level panel has been convened to identify systemic, scalable strategies for empowering women in the Information Society – and I believe that the Tech Sector Roadmap is a perfect example of this, and will make real progress in enabling girls and women to step up to technology and seize the amazing career opportunities ahead.

We have much to look forward to – and I wish you a very constructive dialogue!

Thank you.

Committed to connecting the world – ITU


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