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  • Navneeth Perumal; Katelyn Schwartz

2019 Women Deliver Conference: The Future of Gender Equality and Technology

The 2019 Women Deliver Conference took place in Vancouver, Canada from 6-9 June. Representatives from academia, governments, civil society and the private sector gathered to discuss the state of gender equality in today’s world.

Experts discussed good practices for designing and implementing global, sustainable solutions for development issues including education, financial autonomy and job opportunities. Achieving women’s autonomy and gender equality on a global scale is necessary to fulfilling the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. This blog post discusses the various topics and solutions addressed at Women Deliver 2019.

One panel, The Power of Tech, featured experts including Melinda Gates, who discussed the potential of mobile apps and other new technologies to advance women’s political and social status by providing them with financial autonomy.

Currently, only 30 per cent of the global population is covered by a credit bureau. Panellist Shivani Siroya developed an Android app, Tala, which provides users with instant credit scores, access to financial products and accessible financial services. This revolutionary technology has helped women across the world access financial resources that would otherwise be out of reach. Financial autonomy is crucial to achieving gender equity: it provides women with the opportunity to acquire a higher degree of personal independence. In India, for example, if a woman has a personal bank account, she is more likely to enter employment in the private sector, in turn giving her the opportunity to earn more and gain exposure to different professional experiences. Thus, it is vital that governments, civil society, and the private sector continue to invest in technologies that facilitate financial autonomy for women.

Women Deliver participants also discussed the barriers that women face when entering the tech sector. Due to systemic reasons, women often lack the relevant experience to join the field in the first place. Male students often receive far more access to technology and programming in their youth, giving them a leg up when it comes to landing their first internship. However, many women’s first taste of programming often comes later in their educational career, putting them at a significant disadvantage when it comes to successfully navigating the employment process. There are some good practices, however, that address this problem.

One such example is the WiTNY Institute’s three-step approach. The WiTNY Institute, a non-profit organization, aims to double the number of women who enter the tech workforce. To do so, the institute first looks for financial investment from industry partners, then approaches academic institutions, leveraging this capital to instigate change in the university's training programmes by creating more practical, career-oriented education courses. Finally, the institute reports back to the corporate sponsors on the skills that students have gained. This approach removes the silos that academic institutions and corporations are often in, offering women access to future job opportunities, as well as the education needed to obtain them.

Women Deliver 2019 ended with an exploration of how best to resolve the issue of women's equality in the context of the SDGs. While Goals 5 and 10 are directly related to women in tech, gender equality affects all of the SDGs. Improving women’s lives improves regional and national economies, thus helping to alleviate poverty. Furthermore, quality education is only transformative when it is accessible to all. It is imperative that women are a part of the conversation. Ultimately, to create a healthier and more prosperous world, we must enable all women.

About the authors

Navneeth Perumal is an intern the International Telecommunication Union in New York, and is an economics major Emory University.

Katelyn Schwartz is currently an intern at the International Telecommunication Union in New York, and is a political science major with a concentration in public policy at Kenyon College.

Image via Rawpixel

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