Women and tech in the spotlight at the UN
From 6th - 17 March 2023, Christina Lovelock was one of the UK delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women #CSW67.
What is CSW67?
The UK hosted COP26 in 2022. You couldn’t miss it. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, a summit which was attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which came into force in 1994.
You may not be aware of CSW67. CSW is the equivalent to COP, but instead of discussing the environment, its focus is women. CSW was founded in 1946, when representatives from just 15 nations were selected to contribute to the commission. On the 67th session of the commission, the UN HQ in New York was packed with representatives from all 193 member states, with many thousands of delegates able to join virtually.
The themes of the session were:
Innovation and technological change,
Education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and
The empowerment of all women and girls;
The path to gender equality
At the current rate of progress, the UN has calculated that global equality will not be achieved for another 300 years. In the UK, this figure is 140 years, or 5 generations.
Digital technologies and the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) offer the potential to speed up progress along this journey, but it is also creating new challenges and inequalities.
Globally 37% of women have no access to the internet, with 250 million fewer women online than men. And the women who are online are 27 times more likely to receive online harassment and be the targets of hate speech than men.
Despite these depressing figures, countries shared many successful ideas, initiatives and investments which are bridging the digital gender gap. This includes:
Understanding digital inequity
Innovating against bias (especially in systems, algorithms and AI)
Ending online violence.
These initiatives included building blocks such as internet availability and access to digital devices and skills in classrooms, described by the representative for Guyana and a ‘mobile first’ strategy shared by Kenya. There were also creative solutions to making science and technology careers attractive to all, such as STEM From Dance in the USA.
The Digital Skills Gap
Everyone in tech is struggling to recruit suitably skilled staff. By 2050, 75% of roles will require some digital skills, so our recruitment challenges are going to get considerably worse. Our best route to bridging the digital skills gap is to enable more women to study and work in tech. This starts with tackling stereotypes that women and girls are less skilled or less interested in STEM.
Creating entry level roles in tech and supporting people within their role to develop digital skills is the only way for employers to start addressing the skills gap. We can no longer look to schools and universities and call this a ‘pipeline’ problem. It is a demand problem, and we cannot demand that every role we recruit for requires many years of experience.
Normalising Allyship from Men
In the opening session, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, said “Promoting women’s full contribution to science, technology and innovation is not an act of charity or a favour to women. It is a MUST and it benefits everyone.”
This highlights the need for everyone in tech to understand the digital gender gap and to help solve the digital skills gap though the recruitment, training and promotion of many more women. If you are not talking about getting more women into your tech workforce, you are making a strategic and economic mistake.
Source: UN Photo Library
techUK is marching forward to close the tech gender gap in 2023. Throughout March, coinciding with International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) on 8 March, we are exploring how we embrace equitable workplaces. The UN’s theme for IWD 2023 focuses on Digital for All or DigitALL, and we are proud to support this.
For more information, please visit our Women in Tech hub.
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