Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.
Never before has the need for women to take on a leadership role in creating a more just and equal digital future been more important.
It is one of the explicit goals of Network of Women @WTDC, an initiative launched by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to help women assume leadership roles in the lead-up to the 2021 World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-21).
2021 will be an important year for gender equality at ITU. On 22 April, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of International Girls in ICT Day. To mark this milestone, ITU has activities planned for a 10-day worldwide celebration, reflecting a year-round commitment to the next generation of women in tech, who will help shape the global future.
ITU invites all its stakeholders to play their part in these celebrations by organizing programmes, training and activities throughout the year.
As part of the WSIS 50:50 gender balance challenge, I also hope you will join us today for the opening of the special track for ICTs and Gender Mainstreaming at the WSIS Forum 2021, which kicks off two weeks of virtual interactive sessions dedicated to bridging the gender divide; women’s empowerment; women entrepreneurs, mentors and leaders; and promoting an equality perspective through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
I am pleased to share with you that the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) is actively working to implement the WRC-19 Gender Declaration, which commits us to promoting gender equality, equity, and parity in the work of ITU-R.
In December 2020, the Radiocommunication Bureau Director launched the Network of Women for WRC-23 initiative to start building capacity and to encourage greater participation by women in key roles at the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), as delegates to ITU-R conferences, as chairs and vice-chairs, and in regional groups and WRC-23 preparatory activities.
I was disappointed that there were so few women in leadership roles at WRC-19.
I am optimistic that WRC-23 will see a significant improvement in this area and that there will be more women in key roles at ITU-R meetings and conferences.
I am also excited by projects we see in ITU’s work to support AI for Good and Smart Sustainable Cities initiatives.
These include empowering underserved communities, especially girls and women, to shape the future they want with the help of ICTs.
One such project is dedicated to keeping girls engaged in inclusive online learning at a time when so many young people around the world are being affected by school or university closures.
The past year has underlined the vital importance of digital technologies for us all, especially when the digital gender gap has been growing rather than narrowing.
Having the right digital skillset is increasingly a prerequisite for accessing, and thriving in, the digital world.
Equipping young women and girls worldwide with these competencies will be an important part of the work of the EQUALS global partnership in 2021. The Cisco Networking Academy will be teaming up with EQUALS to provide access to free training on important topics such as cybersecurity, entrepreneurship, and the Internet of Things. ITU and the EQUALS skills coalition partners will also be running the first Gender and ICTs training course, helping women and girls obtain universally recognized skills and certification.
Supporting young women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math careers is at the heart of one of my commitments as an International Gender Champion. I have pledged to help countries raise awareness and promote the active participation of girls and young women in ICT-related careers, equipped with digital skills to fill future jobs on an equal basis.
I have also committed to reinforcing efforts to help countries collect and disseminate gender- and age-disaggregated data on the access and use of ICTs, as well as on digital skills.
This will help to inform, monitor and chart our global progress towards gender equality.
While these are some of the work areas ITU is undertaking in 2021, there is still much to do to ensure that every woman and girl can benefit from the digital technologies and services that have proved so essential since the start of the pandemic.
On this day, and as we look to recovery, let us reaffirm our commitment to harnessing the transformative potential of ICTs, particularly to accelerate progress towards gender equality and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Let’s work together for an equal digital future in a post-COVID world.
Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!