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  • Ankita Singh Gujjar

Technology and Gender: Navigating the Digital Gender Divide

Imagine a world where opportunity is limited by gender, not by innovation. That's the reality for many women around the globe when it comes to technology. The digital gender divide is a real issue with real consequences. 

Here's the deal: According to the World Economic Forum, there's a 21% disparity between men and women in internet access, with the gap widening to 52% in the least developed nations. Women, particularly those marginalized by intersectional discrimination and residing in economically disadvantaged communities, face even greater hurdles in accessing digital connectivity. 

In low- and middle-income countries, mobile internet access is crucial for financial inclusion, education, and healthcare access. Yet, the gender gap in mobile ownership remains significant, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 74 million women lack connections. 

Even when women have access to technology, they often face hurdles.  Women are less likely than men to have the digital skills needed to fully utilize technology. This skills gap can be attributed to various factors, including limited access to education, particularly in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and a lack of training opportunities geared towards women.

On the flip side, the tech industry itself has a gender imbalance. Women make up only 28% of the global tech workforce, according to a 2022 PWC report. This lack of diversity has a real impact. A 2020 study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse leadership teams were more likely to outperform financially. This means the tech we use often reflects male perspectives and priorities. 

So, what's the big deal? Here's why we should care:

  • Empowerment: When women have access to technology and digital skills, they can participate more fully in the workforce, launch businesses, and access education. This is a win for economic development and gender equality.

  • Innovation: Diversity is key to a thriving tech industry. When more women are involved, we get a wider range of ideas and perspectives, leading to more inclusive and effective technologies. For example, having more women in design can lead to the development of products that are more user-friendly for all genders.

  • Safety: Women online face unique threats like cyberbullying and harassment. A 2021 UN Women report found that 73% of women have experienced online violence. Having more women in tech can help create safer online spaces for everyone.

Closing the Gap:  What Can We Do?

The good news is, there are ways to bridge the digital gender divide. Here are some ideas:

  • Bridging the Affordability Gap: We need initiatives that make internet access and devices more affordable and accessible, especially in developing countries. This could involve government subsidies, public-private partnerships, and innovative solutions like community wifi hotspots.

  • Digital Literacy Champions: Programs that teach women essential digital skills like using the internet, navigating online platforms, and staying safe online are crucial. These programs can be offered in schools, community centers, or even through online platforms designed specifically for women.

  • Mentorship Matters: Seeing successful women in tech can inspire girls to pursue similar paths. Mentorship programs that connect women with established professionals in tech can provide invaluable guidance and support. Highlighting female tech leaders through media campaigns and conferences can also help shatter stereotypes and inspire the next generation.

  • Building a Balanced Workforce: According to UNESCO data, globally, only 35% of students enrolled in STEM fields are women. Encouraging women to pursue STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is a critical first step. Additionally, offering scholarships and training programs specifically for women in tech fields can help create a more balanced workforce. Companies in the tech industry can also implement diversity and inclusion initiatives to attract and retain female talent.

By working together, we can create a digital world where everyone has the chance to thrive. Let's bridge the gap and unlock the full potential of technology for all.  

Want to get involved? Do some research! There are many organizations working to close the digital gender divide. You can also support initiatives in your community or even start your own!

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