International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on the 8th of March every year to commemorate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also raising awareness about gender inequality worldwide.
This year, the United Nations and UN Women have chosen the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, highlighting the need to bridge the gender digital divide and promote women’s participation in the digital economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the gender digital divide, as women and girls face increased barriers to accessing digital tools and opportunities, limiting their potential for economic, social and political empowerment.
According to recent data, women are significantly underrepresented in the technology industry, making up only 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally. This underrepresentation has contributed to gender bias in AI systems, with a global analysis of 133 AI systems across industries revealing that 44.2% demonstrate gender bias. Such biases in AI systems can perpetuate gender stereotypes and reinforce discrimination against women, as well as impacting the accuracy and fairness of decisions made by these systems.
Moreover, women in the media industry are also subject to online violence and harassment, with a survey of women journalists from 125 countries revealing that 73% had experienced online violence in the course of their work. Such violence not only affects women journalists’ mental health and well-being but also silences their voices and limits their ability to report freely and accurately.
To close the gender digital gap and ensure that women can fully participate in the digital economy, there are several strategies that can be implemented. First, it is essential to address the structural barriers that limit women’s access to technology and digital tools, such as unequal access to education, training and financial resources. This can be achieved through targeted policies and programs that promote women’s digital literacy and entrepreneurship, such as providing affordable and accessible digital training, mentorship and networking opportunities.
Second, it is crucial to promote women’s representation and leadership in the technology industry, where they are currently underrepresented. This can be achieved through initiatives that encourage and support girls and women to pursue careers in technology, such as scholarships, internships and mentorship programs. Moreover, it is essential to address the cultural biases that may discourage girls and women from entering the technology industry, such as the belief that technology is a male-dominated field.
Third, it is essential to address the issue of gender bias in AI systems, which has significant implications for gender equality. To achieve this, it is necessary to develop and implement ethical guidelines and standards for the development and deployment of AI systems, which take into account the potential for gender bias and discrimination. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that the development and testing of AI systems involve diverse and representative groups, including women and marginalized communities.
Fourth, it is crucial to address the issue of online violence and harassment against women, particularly those in the media industry. This can be achieved through the development and implementation of policies and laws that prohibit and penalize online violence and harassment, as well as through providing support and protection for women journalists who are targeted. Additionally, it is necessary to raise awareness about the issue of online violence and harassment and its impact on women’s ability to participate fully in the digital economy.
In conclusion, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality, highlights the need to address the gender digital divide and promote women’s participation in the digital economy. To achieve this, it is necessary to address the structural barriers that limit women’s access to technology and digital tools, promote women’s representation and leadership in the technology industry, address gender bias in AI systems and tackle online violence and harassment against women. These efforts will not only promote gender equality but also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, let us commit to working together to build a more equitable and inclusive digital future for all. By ensuring that women and girls have equal opportunities to participate in the digital economy, we can unlock their full potential, promote gender equality and build a more sustainable and prosperous world.
This International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, join UN Women and the United Nations in celebrating under the theme DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
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