The session was moderated by Mr Nurul Kabir (Senior Adviser to the Minister of Bangladesh) who sought to open a discussion on actions and best practice exchanges regarding gender parity and inclusiveness in the world of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Ms Hanane Naciri (Radiocommunication & Software Engineer, BR Gender Focal Point, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)) pointed out that gender equality was a key element of the ITU strategic plan. Naciri then highlighted a number of ITU initiatives that are geared towards bridging the digital gender divide, and also spoke of the milestones ITU achieved. She mentioned that women were now leading ITU world conferences and governing bodies. Naciri gave examples of Ms Reena Rawat and Ms Julie Zoller who have served as the first women to chair the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) and the Radio Regulation Board (RRB) respectively. Naciri added that there was a mentorship programme in place whose target audience are women and girls. The programme has an overarching aim to expand professional networks and foster co-operation and teamwork.
Ms Claire Scharwatt (Advocacy Director, Connected Society and Connected Women, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA)) mentioned that the GSMA was one of the founding partners of EQUALS, a multistakeholder initiative that brought together international organisations, the private sector, government agencies, civil society organisations, and academia to address the growing digital gender divide. Scharwatt enumerated that there remained a substantial gender gap in mobile phone ownership in low and middle-income countries, where women are 10% less likely to own a mobile phone. She added that from those able to own a phone, women were 26% less likely to use mobile Internet. Scharwatt cited that the Access Coalition, led by the GSMA, focused mainly on reducing the gender gap in Internet use and access, empowering women and girls, and reducing inequality.
Ms Limor Shmerling (Managing Director, Israel Tech Policy Institute) began by showing a picture of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel who was flanked by 25 men during her visit to Israel. She mentioned that the picture had sparked public outrage in the Israeli tech scene since no women were included in the meeting with the chancellor. She said, however, that the Israeli government was now working towards increasing the number of female students in the tech space in efforts to curb gender discrimination.
Mr Benoit Louvel (Director on Strategic Activities, Orange Business Services; Member of the DoubleYou Bureau) expressed shock at the picture Shmerling showed. He proceeded by explaining that his company was committed to equality and diversity in its team. He said he came to a conclusion that when men possess only 60% of skills required for a particular job, they would apply, while women applied for the same job only when they attained 85% of the skills. Louvel further said that when a team has a 50/50 or 60/40 distribution, this improves the efficiency of the team by up to 25%.
Ms Monique Morrow (President and Co-founder, Humanized Internet) said that her organisation is committed to using new technologies for defending the rights of vulnerable people and giving every human being in the world secure and sovereign control over their own digital identity. She decried the level of discrimination in the tech space where women continue to face challenges. Morrow gave an account from a blockchain conference where out of 85 panels, 80 included only men, despite there being women who could have taken part in sharing their expertise. She called on the need for a 50/50 distribution approach to ensure women and girls are digitally included.
By Bonface Witaba