[Read more session reports from the WSIS Forum 2018]
Dr Hanane Naciri, radiocommunication and software engineer at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radiocommunication Bureau, opened the session. She introduced the group she is leading called Network of Women for World Radiocommunication Conference (NOW4WRC19), an ITU initiative to promote women in the radiocommunications sector at the upcoming conference.
Prof. Tim Unwin, United Nations Educationa, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) chair in ICT4D from the Royal Holloway University of London, moderated the session and asked the speakers to share their experiences regarding why there are so few women in the radiocommunications sector and what can be done about it. During the session, Unwin drew a mindmap based on interventions and ideas from both the speakers and the audience. The map will be available on Unwin’s twitter account as well as on the WSIS website later.
Ms Sahiba Hasanova, cice-chair of ITU-R SG 4 and leading adviser to the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan, first thanked the ITU for encouraging women to send cover letters and take vacancies. Hasanova said that in Azerbaijan women have equal rights to men. She provided examples of women who have leading positions in her ministry, as well as the vice-president of Azerbaijan, who is a woman. Women also head leading ICT companies in the country. Then she moved to her personal experience. Since childhood, Hasanova has been interested in Math and Physics and then got higher education in Engineering. Further, moving from a broadcasting company, she entered the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies doing international activities on satellite coordination.
Ms Caitlin Kraft-Buchman, CEO/founder of Women@theTable, Geneva, introduced her non-governmental organization, which creates space on a mainstream global stage for women at decision-making tables. One of its initiatives is International gender champions, a network of female and male decision makers who strive to push out gender barriers. She said it is important to focus on how we can get gender equality, not on why the situation is at it is. The quantity and quality aspects of women’s representation do matter – there should be at least 50% of women who can speak and make decisions, not just have a mere presence. The second matter is to ‘fix the institutions’. Institutions themselves are frequently hostile to women by design – for example, tenure tracks, age requirements, inability to chose both family and career simultaneously. According to Kraft-Buchman, institutions must be flexible and function without gender bias in the distribution of roles. Her final remark touched on the issue of knowledge: Who creates new knowledge and inventions? Why have women been left behind in the history of technology development?
Ms Brigitte Mantilleri, director of the Equal Opportunities Office of the University of Geneva, claimed: ‘As we are representing more than a half of the world’s population, logically we should deserve half of the positions in every domain, especially leading positions.’ Mantilleri added that mixed teams in terms of gender and ethnicity are more creative and productive. Also, she stated, education is rather gendered because of stereotypes that prevent women enrolling in ‘traditionally male’ courses. ‘Women are pretty good in the sciences and present in the faculty, but the problem begins when you what to go up the ladder.’ Mantilleri works on mentoring to reinforce women to conduct campaigns to inform society about stereotypes and gender bias in the hiring process. Finally, she stressed the problems of active daily sexism and harassment that are present in all enterprises.
By Ilona Stadnik