• Opinion by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Interpress service

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality”, seeks to answer just that question.

We know that women and girls are less likely than men and boys to use the internet or own a smartphone. In fact, only 54 percent of women in Asia Pacific have digital access, cut off from opportunities to move digital needles forward.

The root causes are many and varied: deeply rooted discriminatory social norms, increased gender-based violence (including online violence) and unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work. Addressing these barriers to women realizing their full potential requires our collective and immediate attention and response.

A child, a teacher, a pen

Whenever and wherever women and girls are discouraged from studying and working in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), we are failing them. And we have left a whole generation of women and girls behind. We need the talents and voices of women and girls brought to the boardrooms and coding rooms.

Today, many innovations in AI, medicine, entertainment, transportation, work, and other fields treat men as the default, ignoring women’s physical and social differences—to the detriment of half the world’s population.

Getting more women into careers in technology starts with breaking down the gender stereotypes that keep girls from studying STEM subjects. Extensive changes to the way STEM subjects are taught and targeted programs to support girls’ learning are needed.

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Education has updated the country’s national pre-primary education curriculum to “de-stereotype” women and girls and has included gender-sensitive budgeting in the education sector plan. Through changes like these, governments can foster girls’ enthusiasm for technology and expand the future digital workforce.

Leveraging technology to support women entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs play a key role in developing economies. Supporting them to start and grow businesses through technology will lead to more sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Women have historically struggled to access capital because they are less aware of financing options.

They are less likely to own land or have large savings to offer as collateral and have not been included in traditional financial networks. Technological innovations provide an opportunity to connect women entrepreneurs across the region with new funding models that address their particular needs.

United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Catalyze women’s entrepreneurship The project has unlocked nearly $65 million in capital to support women entrepreneurs in several countries.

By identifying and supporting a number of experimental technology-driven business models, the project has supported women-led micro, small and medium enterprises through a range of technology solutions such as payment platforms, online marketplaces, accounting and inventory management.

Enabling women to become drivers of inclusive innovation

If we pair the untapped potential of women and girls to contribute to our common future together with the potential of innovations in digitization, science and technology, we may well have cracked the code to correct many of the inequalities and injustices that have been created of previous generations.

Women have the knowledge to utilize technology and innovation. With equal opportunities, they will flourish and contribute to creative solutions to tackle the world’s multifaceted challenges.

Women leaders in Asia and the Pacific are already using technology to address inequalities and gender-based violence. Founded by Virginia Tan, Rhea See and Leanne Robers, She loves technologyheadquartered in Singapore, runs the world’s largest women and technology start-up competition and aims to unlock over US$1 billion in capital by 2030 for women-led companies.

Security is a crowd-mapping platform for people to share experiences of sexual harassment in public spaces and allows communities to identify problems and work towards solutions. The platform was launched by three women, including current leader Elsa Marie D’Silva, in response to incidents of gender-based violence in the region.

“We can all do our part to unleash our world’s vast untapped talent – ​​starting by filling classrooms, laboratories and boardrooms with women scientists,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said recently. Indeed, we need women in leadership roles in all fields of science and technology to accelerate inclusive innovation.

Let’s work together towards our dream of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. What better way to do that than to use innovations and new technologies to overcome inequalities in the digital age?

IPS UN agency

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service