E-Skills for Women and Girls: Closing the gender gap in the digital age [Die Welt im Wandel: Real. Digital.]
On November 8th, 2016, the second event of our lecture series "Die Welt im Wandel: Real. Digital." took place at the GIZ. We welcomed about 130 guests and renowned speakers who shared their experiences and insights about the aspect of equality in the digital age.
„The digital world is dominated by men, but sustainable development can only be accomplished if women participate as equals.” stated Hans-Peter Baur, Head of Directorate for Democracy, Human Rights, Social Development and Digital World at BMZ at the beginning of the lecture “E-skills for Women and Girls: Closing the Gender Gap in the digital age” on the evening of November 8, 2016 at GIZ Bonn.
How can the digital divide between men and women effectively be overcome? This was the main question of the evening that was part of the lecture series „The World in Transformation: Real. Digital.“, organized by GIZ, Deutsche Welle Akademie, City and University of Bonn. Besides Baur, Terry Reintke, Member of the European Parliament, Iffat Rose Gill, founder of "ChunriChoupaal - The Code to Change" Founder and Martha Chumo, founder of the “Nairobi Dev School” looked for answers to the question. The speakers were able to convince the 130 mainly young participants in the audience by their inspiring talks displaying their experiences with digital technology from a female point of view. Prof. Maren Bennewitz, Deputy Rector for Information Technology and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Bonn, also commented on her own experiences in the male-dominated digital world.
A look into facts & figures boldy explains the discrimination women face in the digital age. According to a report published by the UN Broadband Commission, 200 million fewer women than men have access to the internet today, with the prospect to increase to 350 in 2030. A study by the World Wide Web Foundation shows that women are 1.6 times more likely than men to report lack of skills as a barrier for internet use. Moreover, only 24 % of tech jobs worldwide are held by women.
„This also holds true for Europe“, clarified Reintke. In the European Union, only 9% of all software developers are female. But 800,000 vacancies in ICT jobs would constitute a strong economic argument to promote women’s employment in those jobs, said Reintke. The demand of the MEP: „We need to teach programming skills already in primary and secondary schools“. E-skills would include more than programming, panelists agreed. However, women knowing how to code would find easier access to the digital world and its job markets; and solid s-kills would boost female self-esteem and resilience. However, the first step would remain access to the internet, the place where the self-taught coders Gill and Chumo learned their skills.
"Throughout the years, I learned that providing access is THE tool to empower women in Pakistan“, said Gill, who today teaches women in both Pakistan and Europe how to code and participate in the digital world. Martha Chumo illustrated with her own story what it means to overcome barriers through ICT. In order to improve and certify her coding skills learned on the internet while in Kenya, Chumo had applied for US Visa and a programmer school - but her visa application got denied. With the money she had crowdfunded for her own trip, she simply decided to stay back home and invest in her own coding school in Kenya and South Sudan. „It is not easy to identify and find girls who want to code! The boys always apply first. But we tried hard and always had as many women as possible on board“, reported Chumo. Gill called for „an enabling environment for women, consisting of supportive parents, teachers, safe spaces for girls and women to experiment and learn“. The panelists agreed: It positive female role models are needed.
The BMZ plans to launch the initiative#eSkills4Girls in 2017. „We plan to create a platform, displaying best practices and women with inspiring stories from the ICT sector, thereby helping to build role models and a supportive network.”, said Head of Directorate Baur. „It is the success stories and the experiences of overcoming barriers which will hopefully inspire girls and young women to do the same.”
- Report UN Broadband Commission (2013): Doubling Digital Opportunities: Enhancing the Inclusion of Women & Girls in the Information Society: http://www.broadbandcommission.org/Documents/working-groups/bb-doubling-digital-2013.pdf
- Report World Wide Web Foundation (2015): Women’s Rights Online: Translating Access into Empowerment: http://webfoundation.org/2015/10/new-report-womens-rights-online/
- Report on gender equality and empowering women in the digital age: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A8-2016-0048+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN
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