Bridging the Global Digital Divide for Women
By Marisa Rivera
As an eternal optimist, I believe that in every crisis – there is an opportunity. The year 2020 created, on one hand, a big set-back for women in the workforce, more than 3 million women in the U.S. left their jobs to care for their children because of the pandemic and having to home school (2021 McKensey & Co & LeanIn.org report) and many other were laid off. The cases of domestic violence skyrocketed, small businesses collapsed and many women across industries were laid off. On the other hand, in one of the most tumultuous years in history, women’s resilience still prevailed.
Women worldwide, using technology, and connecting online, collaborating across borders, lifting each other up, fighting for food security and organizing food drives and health care campaigns for their communities, standing up to warlords in conflict zones, building systems to end gender-based violence and white supremacy. Women also worked in educating girls in refugee camps, organizing voting campaigns and advocating in international forums for climate action and indigenous rights, taking technology in their hands to strengthen peace movements, and so much more. (World Pulse 2021).
The reality is that the gender digital divide is real. Nearly half of the world’s women are still offline. According to the World Economic Forum, women have 23 percent less access to the internet than men—30–50 percent less in some countries—and the skills gap is only worsening. While UN sustainable development goals speak to the potential of technology to enable women’s empowerment, women continue to face barriers to unlocking their full potential. Now more than ever, digital spaces must be safe and accessible for women.
I am a proud advisory board member to World Pulse, www.worldpulse.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to amplifying women’s voices around the world using digital technology. At the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, World Pulse surveyed grassroots women leaders from around the world on key technology issues and opportunities. Approximately 416 women from 54 countries responded to the survey.
The report #SheTransformsTech shows how women are using the internet, social media, and online documentation to rewrite their own country’s narrative and realities as they experienced them.
The report outlines some of the ways technology has enabled them to raise their voices, gain access to resources, and connect with others, all of which have contributed to their empowerment.
The report also highlights the recommendations made by women and for women to address the gender digital divide, such as (1) more digital skills training, (2) more women in decision-making in technology, (3) stronger laws against online harassment and abuse, (4) more women in decision-making in government, and (5) more women digital teachers and trainers, among others.
We must listen to their recommendations and act. To read the full report, go to: https://worldpulse.s3.amazonaws.com/World_Pulse_She_ Transforms_Tech_Report_SM_18bdf9577e.pdf.
Now more than ever, digital spaces must be safe and accessible for women. As the global COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, digital tools are integral for staying up to date, finding news, staying connected, and standing up and speaking out. But they are not without barriers and challenges. Disconnection and discrimination are slowing women’s global progress as makers and users of technology, and there is still a long way to go to make tech equitable for all. There is an urgent need to combine the power of women with the power of technology to speed up the pace for change. Technology could be the greatest equalizer for “Las Jefas” (women) – Let us do it together!
Marisa Rivera is president of Mpowerment Works, a motivational speaker, executive coach and leadership and empowerment consultant. Marisa@ MpowermentWorks. com.