Innovation and technology are crucial in the modern world. Yet, the gender gap in technology continues to widen, excluding women and leaving them disadvantaged in terms of digital literacy and access.
Women are therefore missing out on enormous opportunities for employment, education, and entrepreneurship, limiting their ability to participate in the digital economy, or even make a difference in the world. That’s why this year’s International Women’s Day theme is so important – “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality,” gives us all the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come—but also on how much further we still need to go—in working towards gender equality in the tech industry.
The lack of women in the tech sector promotes bias and affects the types of technology that are being produced and sold in the market in several ways:
Unrepresentative user perspectives
The absence of women in the tech sector limits the pool of diverse perspectives, which can lead to the development of technology that is not inclusive of the needs and preferences of women. This can result in technology that does not meet the needs of a significant portion of the population, leading to a lack of adoption and reduced market potential.
Bias in artificial intelligence systems
When women are underrepresented in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems, the algorithms used to develop these systems are also biased. This is because AI systems are trained on existing data, which often reflects the gender and cultural biases of the people who created it. As a result, AI systems can perpetuate existing patterns of gender inequality and discrimination, leading to biased outcomes.
Inadequate safety measures
Women are more likely to experience online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence than men. A lack of women in the tech sector can result in inadequate safety measures being developed, as the perspectives of women who have experienced violence are not considered.
Limited access to technology for women
When women are underrepresented in the tech sector, they are also less likely to have access to technology. This can limit their ability to participate fully in the digital economy and perpetuate existing patterns of gender inequality. Some compelling research has been carried out in this area, under the auspices of the UN-led Equals global partnership: https://www.equalsintech.org/
To ensure that technology is inclusive and meets the needs of all people, it is essential to encourage and support the participation of women in the tech sector. Bridging the digital gender divide is not only crucial for promoting gender equality but also for a sustainable future and a tech ecosystem that is inclusive and representative.
It is important that we continue innovating together, as men and women alike: by supporting each other through mentorship programs, empowering women in leadership positions across industries, and recognizing them publicly for their contributions. We must also continue working together toward policies that support greater gender parity in the workplace.
We hope this International Women’s Day inspires us all to continue innovating for equality—not just today but every day—by celebrating each other’s successes and working together toward a better future!