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2018 EQUALS in Tech Award winners reimagine the digital future

The five winners of the 2018 EQUALS in Tech Awards were announced in a ceremony on 22 September 2018 at the Yale Club in New York City. The annual awards recognize the innovation and creativity of global initiatives promoting the inclusion of women and girls in the tech sector and in internet access.

Winners of the 2018 Equals in Tech Awards: (L to R) Ethel Cofie - Women in Tech Africa; Meghann Portland - Mercy Corps; Mira Al-Khatib -; AfterAccess (Alison Gillwald, Aileen Aguero, Helani Galpaya), Ann Rosenberg - SAP Next-Gen; and Marisol Alarcon - Laboratoria

This year’s 22 EQUALS in Tech Award finalists stood out particularly from among 357 nominations from 80 countries. They were chosen by an advisory group of former winners and experts from the EQUALS Steering Committee, comprising leads of the three Equals Coalitions—Access, Skills and Leadership—co-founders and financial contributors. The 2018 EQUALS in Tech Awards were supported by the Internet Society, Verizon, the Swiss Federal Office of Communications and Germany (BMZ/GIZ).

Jayde Lovell, host of “ScIQ” on TYT Network and co-host on Science Channel’s “Strange Evidence,” led an audience of gender and tech thought leaders through an inspiring evening. All five winning organizations were represented at the ceremony, arriving from as far away as Jordan.

“The EQUALS in Tech Awards are really driving the recognition of diversity in tech and I’m so pleased to be part of it! The winners this year are hugely inspiring…. The level of connectedness that these platforms provide is exactly what we need in this current world of segregation."

- 2018 awards host Jayde Lovell

Jayde Lovell, host of the 2018

EQUALS in Tech Awards


The 2018 Equals in Tech Awards were awarded in four categories: access, skills, leadership and research.

Mats Granryd, Director General of GSMA, presented the 2018 Access Award to, a Mercy Corps initiative in Jordan that has developed a website and mobile application that provide refugees—particularly women—with reliable and trustworthy information critical to their security and self-reliance. For example, users can connect digitally with humanitarian officers without compromising their safety.

"Access to accurate information is one of the most important things for women living in difficult circumstances such as being a refugee."

- Mira Al-Khatib, Project Officer.

The 2018 Skills Award was presented by ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao to Laboratoria for their initiative entitled, Giving women from underserved backgrounds a career in tech. The social enterprise gives young women across Latin America the technical and life skills they need to become self-sufficient web developers and professionals. The training is free of charge, requiring women to pay only once they have successfully been placed in a job in the tech sector. Laboratoria maintains training centers in Guadalajara, Lima, Mexico City, Sao Paulo and Santiago, and has trained nearly 1 000 graduates to date.

“Women, as men, should be able to achieve their dreams and as simple as this sounds, this is still not possible. The growing digital industry presents enormous opportunities to change this.”

Marisol Alarcón, Partner and Partnerships VP at Laboratoria

Andrew Sullivan (CEO of the Internet Society) and Arancha González (Executive Director of ITC) co-presented the 2018 Leadership I Award to Women in Tech Africa. This initiative, headquartered in Ghana, is the largest group of its kind on the African continent. It focuses on entrepreneurship and career leadership to increase the number of women in technology. Their methods include encouraging women to pursue technology careers; pushing for more tech leadership positions for women; creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career pipeline for women; and encouraging women to explore entrepreneurial opportunities in STEM.

“Women in Tech Africa was founded over 5 years ago… with the ambition of providing a platform for women of African descent in the technology space where they can support, peer learn and share experiences.”

- Ethel Cofie, founder of Women in Tech Africa

Introduced for the first time to acknowledge the efforts of tech companies to bridge the gender digital divide, the Leadership II Award was presented by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, to New York-based SAP Next-Gen, a global, purpose-driven innovation university and community linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The organization aims to make innovation and technology work better for young women and girls by working with international organizations, universities, start-ups, accelerators and local communities to foster the next generation of female social entrepreneurs and digital leaders.

“Advancing opportunities for STEM education—including digital technologies such as blockchain—can help women and girls to design, shape and benefit from the technological transformations and innovations changing our world.”

- Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Global Head of SAP Next-Gen

The Research Award—a new awards category—recognizes initiatives producing rigorous research and reliable evidence on the gender digital divide. David Malone, Rector of the United Nations University, presented the award to AfterAccess, which brings together a network of researchers to complete a large-scale data collection effort that will allow—for the first time—accurate comparison of gender digital divide information in the Global South.

“The AfterAccess surveys have allowed us to dig deep, beyond simply measuring the size of the gender gap, highlighting the fact that even once access among women is achieved, their user experience is very different from that of men.”

- Alison Gillwald, Helani Galpaya and Aileen Agüero—AfterAccess project leads

These five inspirational winners join a growing community of former EQUALS in Tech Award recipients united in one goal: to reimagine a digital future where women and girls are equals. Reacting to the growth of the awards, Andrew Sullivan (President and CEO of longtime platinum sponsor Internet Society) said, “To make the Internet for everyone, we need everyone involved. We recognize the five winners of this year's EQUALS in Tech Awards for their contributions to a world where equal opportunity exists for women and girls. They are helping to make sure everyone can have a voice in our digital future.”


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