On 21 September, the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality marked the 77th United Nations General Assembly with a high-level event to inspire a global multi-sector mobilization to shape a feminist digital future. One of the Six Action Coalitions of the Generation Equality Forum, this innovative, multi-stakeholder partnership is committed to leveraging technology and innovation to achieve gender equality through a framework of catalytic, scalable, and measurable actions.
Opening the event, UN Women Executive Director, Ms. Sima Bahous, stressed that “the digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality,” and called on partners to leverage digitalization as a tool to advance gender equality, social justice and poverty eradication. “More than ever, we need to stand together to affirm and reaffirm that ‘Digital rights are women’s rights’,” Ms. Bahous emphasized.
The unfolding discussions explored the socio-cultural, data-driven and regulatory challenges faced by both public and private sector actors in working to move the needle in the technology and gender sphere. Their compelling commitments are part of a rising momentum in what promises to be an unprecedented year of opportunities to cement gender at the heart of digital evolution.
Walking the talk in the private sector
The diverse role of the private sector – as employers, investors, and creators of products and services – offers numerous opportunities to model the gender balance that we are looking for in society, explained Koç Holding Board Member, Ms. İpek Kiraç.
As part of their Commitment to the Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation, Koç Group companies pledged to increase the minimum ratio of women employed in technology and innovation roles to at least 30 per cent by 2026, and to conduct 30 individual programs to reach 500,000 women and girls from all age groups to improve access and participation in the technology sector.
"This is not a race - it's about unity," said Ms. Kiraç. "We are coming together with
companies, with governments, with institutions, because the effect of collective action is so much higher than trying to tackle everything alone."
Tech companies have the unique power of leveraging their ecosystems to challenge gender norms, explained Logitech CEO, Mr. Bracken Darrell. This led Logitech to co-found the Coalition for Gender Fair Procurement, through which companies commit to evaluate every one of their suppliers based on gender-fair standards. “The moral case for diversity is obvious and it’s just inexcusable if companies haven’t prioritized it,” said Mr. Darrell.
Committing to action
UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Technology, Dr. Amandeep Singh Gill, presented the work done to support the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation in the specific area of digital inclusion, under the leadership of the governments of Canada and Mexico and UN Women. This included the sharing of a new definition of digital inclusion, developed through broad multi-stakeholder consultation, paving the way for dialogue that is based on a shared assessment of what digital inequality looks like.
Mr. Ville Skinnari, Finland Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade and Ms. Paula Ingabire, Rwanda Minister for ICT and Innovation highlighted how their commitments to Generation Equality will drive transformative progress.
The Rwandan Government is working to make tech gender-equal, including by pledging to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and ensure 100% of female-led households have access to a mobile phone, by 2026. The Government of Finland has placed a special focus on the elimination of online gender-based violence, investing EUR 150 million to tackle intractable barriers to the participation of women in digital spaces.
2023: a pivotal year
UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Anita Bhatia, emphasized the opportunities that the next year presents to strengthen cooperation at the intersection of gender and technical change.
Namely, in March 2023, the Priority Theme of the 67th Commission on the Status of Women will focus on ‘Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving
gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. This will be followed by the Women Deliver Conference, from 17 – 20 July 2023, which will provide a platform to formulate innovative and sustainable solutions to pervasive gender inequalities. Finally, throughout the coming year, governments, civil society and private sector actors will start shaping a Global Digital Compact, which seeks “to outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all.”
The need for revitalized multilateralism to drive these initiatives was echoed by Mr. Skinnari and Ms. Ingabire who noted “a lot of the things that we're discussing here today are things that we needed to have done yesterday.” “In the public sector, we have legislative tools, we have regulatory tools, but it’s not enough,” said Mr. Skinnari. “You have to have a system-level approach, where women and girls are involved at the very local level and at the very top.”
To fully democratize the digital space, uncomfortable truths and invisible realities around pervasive gender biases must be acknowledged and confronted with innovative approaches. “As our ambition rises, we need to adjust our targets,” said Dr. Gill, who is leading the Global Digital Compact efforts. As we move towards CSW 67, he emphasized that we will make sure that we have a compelling vision for the future and act together on how we can address the gender gap within the digital divide.
Taking a stand
In recognition of the opportunities that lie in the year ahead, the Leaders of the Action Coalition prepared a joint statement to call for gender equality to be placed at the heart of the Global Digital Compact (GDC). Announcing the statement, Ms. Anita Bhatia, emphasized that it represents an open call that can be joined by any organization or individual that wishes to advocate for an open, free and equal digital future, and invited all supporters to endorse the statement and join the movement.