A digital generation where every girl counts – a global problem

Sebabatso Nessef (left), a 19-year-old South African girl, has created an app-afia yangu or “my health” in Swahili. The app helps patients maintain privacy and dignity by allowing hospitals to communicate directly with patients. Credit: UNICEF / Mosibudi Ratalbejan
  • Feedback By Mirzana Spolzaric Eleven (New York)
  • Inter Press Service

In 2020, more than 600 million women in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) did not have access to mobile internet and, therefore, were more likely than men to be deprived of learning and work opportunities.

Access, ownership and use of digital devices is not gender-neutral: for example, parents may be tougher on girls than boys in activities that require the use of mobile phones and the Internet, while families with limited computing resources may redirect it to boys and men to girls and women. , Often given the responsibility of domestic work and unpaid work. Issues such as affordability and cost also affect women and girls unequally.

In addition, social norms, gender bias, and lack of support from families and teachers often prevent girls and women from choosing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs and pursuing careers in this field.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, one in three girls reported that their families were discouraging them from choosing a stem subject more widely at their university, while 23 percent of women aged 15-24 in Ukraine did not report a lack of confidence. Career in technology. With a small number of women following the STEM field, the lack of female role models for the younger generation continues, exacerbating the problem.

Gender equality in STEM

We must all join in advancing gender equality in STEM. Measures include removing gender stereotypes in education, raising awareness and promoting STEM issues for girls and women, and providing career guidance to encourage girls to study in areas influenced by men.

Our regional advocacy platform, STEM4All, is working with multiple partners – from policymakers and academia to women and girls – to share knowledge, build alliances and build connections to advance gender equality in STEM.

Earlier this year, the platform helped organize a ‘Girls in Tech: Central Asia’ event, bringing together leaders from the technology industry and ICT role models to advise more than 120 girls and women from artisans, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, to share experiences, Turkmenistan, And Uzbekistan.

One of our goals on the platform is to highlight the high-impact initiatives of our partners, government and the private sector. The Engineer Girls Project in Turkey, for example, is an excellent model of how to increase the performance of qualified women in engineering with scholarships, internships and mentoring and coaching support.

In Azerbaijan, UNDP has partnered with USAID to run a nine-month mentorship program to provide tools and advice for young women and girls to make progress in the STEM fields. The platform is powered by Accelerator Labs, a UNDP learning network designed to accelerate progress toward achieving sustainable development goals.

The future of work

Although the demand for staff in the STEM profession is expected to increase in the future, in Europe and Central Asia, the share of women researchers in engineering and technology has exceeded 40 percent in just a few countries. The number of women in computer science is also significantly lower than that of men: in the EU, women make up only 1 percent of ICT specialists, while in the South Caucasus and the Western CIS, only 1 percent are women in ICT and technology.

Cultural and social norms, lack of child care, and inadequate parental leave policies are major barriers for women to enter and advance in the profession of their choice. These barriers extend manifold to STEM fields, whose male-dominated workplaces and stereotypes of the involved gender are deadly barriers for many talented women.

Gender equality in the future of STEM and work is a goal in itself. We cannot deny the opportunity for half of humanity to enter and succeed in this high growth sector that provides the power of green and digital transformation.

But there are also compelling economic and social reasons for us to strive towards this goal.

In the EU, for example, closing the gender gap in STEM could create an additional 1.2 million jobs. More women graduating from STEM and choosing a career in the higher wage sector can gradually increase their average earnings, helping to close the gender pay gap.

The future of the world and work requires women’s skills and attitudes, talents and leadership, as much as men. We need all integrated steps to close the digital gap between the sexes and harness the power of technology to advance education, leadership and an equal future for girls and women.

Mirzana Spolzaric Eleven is the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, Assistant Administrator of the UNDP and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS. He was appointed to the post by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in August 2011 and took office in October 2011.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service

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