Equals in Tech Awards

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Open Forum 23

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[Read more session reports and updates from the 14th Internet Governance Forum]

The winners of the 2019 EQUALS in Tech Awards were announced at a ceremony held at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on 28 November 2019. EQUALS in Tech began in 2014 as a collaboration between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). Their tech awards honour individuals and organisations that help girls and women gain equal access, skills, and opportunities in the tech industry, in the categories of: Access, Leadership in SMEs, Leadership in Tech, Research, and Skills.

Co-founder of EQUALS Ms Doreen Martin (Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU) stated that linking girls and women with information and communication technologies (ICTs) transforms the world and is vital for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). New projects build on the ideas from previous success stories, and the number of initiatives making a difference continues to grow. Martin said that the EQUALS in Tech ceremony shows us how ideas and commitment can influence public policy and private sector engagements.

Submissions for EQUALS in Tech come from all over the world and compete in five categories: Access, Leadership in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Leadership in Tech, Research, and Skills. The winners of the 2019 Equals Tech Awards are: the Female Agent project by DINARAK, Jordan (Access); the Bridge the Gap initiative by Kumasi Hive, Ghana (Leadership in SMEs); the SheWorks! Academy by SheWorks!, USA (Leadership in Tech); the report Portray Her: Representation of Women STEM Characters in Media by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Lyda Hill Philanthropies, USA (Research); and the Women's Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC), Nigeria (Skills).

The Female Agent project is a payment service provider in Jordan that aims at catalysing access to digital financial services among underprivileged women through a network of female agents. Women in non-traditional roles, such as mobile money agents, help empower female entrepreneurs while providing women in their communities with access to mobile money solutions, such as payments, savings, credit or insurance. The project has reached around 38 000 women since its launch in 2017. In the next five years, they aim to reach half a million women in Jordan and provide them with convenient and affordable digital financial services.

The Bridge the Gap initiative by Kumasi Hive focuses on developing a critical mass of female skilled personnel, innovators, and entrepreneurs through practical skills training. The initiative aims to educate 880 women in digital skills by 2020 and has already helped set up 60 female tech start-ups.

SheWorks! Academy provides access to training and certification that allows women to continue to develop professionally and compete on the job market, with the ultimate goal of closing the gender tech gap. They work with leading brands including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems to connect thousands of women with job opportunities within their partners’ ecosystems.

The extensive research report Portray Her: Representation of Women STEM Characters in Media covers the portrayals of female characters in science, technology, engineering, and math in television and film. The report shows that entertainment media has a long way to go to improve stereotypes about pursuing STEM careers.

The Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC) from Nigeria is a non-profit organisation focussed on encouraging girls to pursue technology careers and supporting both girls and women to use technology for entrepreneurship. W.TEC builds the capacities of Nigerian girls and women for increasing their economic power and the ability to speak about issues affecting their lives. This is done through technology literacy training, technology-based projects, mentoring, work placement, and research. W.TEC works in partnership with local and international NGOs, educational, and research organisations.

By Mili Semlani

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