Part One reviews research and data (mostly as of June, 2018) on the three core action areas of the EQUALS Partnership: ICT Access, Skills, and Leadership. It covers trends as represented in official statistics, academic reports, and grey literature, and it assesses the availability of relevant sex-disaggregated data.
Gender gaps exist irrespective of the overall level of digital access within a country. This is true across the four basic access indicators: computer use, mobile phone ownership, mobile phone use, and access to the internet.
Basic digital access and literacy are necessary but not sufficient conditions for women to meaningfully use ICTs. Use is not the same as ownership. The disparity between ICT use and ICT ownership indicators may be key to understanding barriers to women’s meaningful use of ICTs.
Beyond basic access, there are gender differences in the use of ICTs – as seen with digital financial services. New gender divides emerge as technologies become more sophisticated, expensive, and enable more transformational uses and impacts.
CHAPTER 2. GENDER EQUALITY IN ICT SKILLS
As ICTs are increasingly ingrained in everyday life, the ability to make use of digital technologies has become an essential human competency. This chapter examines the state of gender gaps in basic, intermediate and advanced digital skills; and STEM education.
Individuals with ICT skills, by types of skills and gender
While science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education can provide the foundation for advanced digital skills and a career in the tech industry, girls perceive their own skill levels to be lower than boys and have less interest in the subjects.
Only 35% of women pursue higher education in STEM subjects. When they do, they study natural sciences more than applied sciences related to ICT.
CHAPTER 3. GENDER EQUALITY IN ICT INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP
This chapter draws on existing research and data to explore the state of women’s employment in the ICT workforce, contribution to the industry as entrepreneurs, and inclusion in ICT policymaking.
Sample ILO sector and occupation classifications
Although gains have been made over the years, women’s representation remains low across different dimensions of the ICT industry.
On average, women constitute less than 35% of ICT and related professionals; but there is wide variation by country and by ICT sub-sector, from as low as 2% to as high as 60%.
Women have a very low rate of leadership in ICT policymaking.
Worldwide, only 28 countries have a woman ICT minister, and only 25 have a woman heading the telecom regulator.
CHAPTER 4. THE DARK SIDE OF ICT ACCESS, SKILLS, AND LEADERSHIP
For all its advantages, the digital age comes with gender-related risks and pitfalls. This chapter reviews data and research on some of these negative manifestations, including cyber violence against women and girls; sexual harassment and gender discrimination in education, employment and public spaces; and work/life balance issues that disadvantage women. However better sex-disaggregated data is needed to examine these issues in the specific context of digital technologies.
Greater female inclusion in ICT access, skills, and leadership could become associated with increased exposure to undesirable experiences, unless that inclusion is accompanied by corresponding changes in the social and institutional cultures that enable or tolerate negative behaviour.
Most countries have legislation against employment-related sexual harassment. However, as of 2018, the majority (65%) of reporting countries have no sexual harassment legislation for schools and 83% have no legislation covering public spaces.
A masculine-oriented work model especially prevalent in technology industries, pits work-devotion against family-devotion, which tends to disadvantage women.
CHAPTER 5. BARRIERS TO GENDER DIGITAL EQUALITY
This chapter compiles literature and research on barriers to gender digital equality and recommendations for dealing with the barriers.
Barriers to gender digital equality emerge from a variety of sources, most of which cut across issues of access, skills, and leadership.
Resolving gender digital inequalities will require addressing these barriers. However, there is no single conclusive strategy.
Some remedies target specific manifestations or symptoms of gender digital inequality, such as affordability or recruiting practices. Others recommend reshaping deeply ingrained social norms and practices that are at the root of gender inequality.
THE STATE OF
This chapter summarizes and assesses the ICT access, skills, and leadership indicators covered in this report against three criteria: conceptual clarity, established methodology, and regularity of data collection (based on the three tiers of the UN’s Minimum Set of Gender Indicators).
There is a severe lack of gender-disaggregated official statistics on ICT-access, skills and leadership. Most indicators are conceptually unclear, lack an agreed methodology, and are not regularly collected by most countries in any region or development category (less than 50% of countries, for most indicators).
Part Two of the report comprises independently authored chapters by members of the EQUALS Research Group. It brings together theoretical perspectives and research data on themes to broaden our understanding of pathways to gender equality in the digital age, outlining potential agendas for the Partnership. These themes fall into three broad categories: People, Digital Skills, and Pathways.
This chapter provides a broad overview of gender digital equality in three different contexts:
Argentina – Substantial progress has been made in addressing gender digital divides.
Indonesia – Gender digital divides persist despite a dynamic ICT market.
Rwanda – Gender digital inequality is substantial although there is high gender equality in other sectors of society.
CHAPTER 1. GENDER VARIANCE AND THE GENDER DIGITAL DIVIDE
This chapter reviews the inter-relationships between gender and sexual minorities and ICTs, examining the opportunities for access and use, and assessing the pitfalls involved. It provides suggestions for further research and programming to promote gender equality in ICT.
Policy and research on gender and ICT generally focus on binary categories: male/female, excluding consideration of transgender people, gender identities, and sexual preference. Consequently, they do not capture the true relationship of gender and sexual minorities to ICTs.
The spread of internet access and social media permit gender and sexual minorities to authentically express their gender within their communities, without the stress of medically and/or socially transitioning or pressures of “coming out”. Smart phones and mobile apps facilitate fast, affordable, and culturally relevant dissemination of crucial services such as eHealth interventions to gender and sexual minorities.
However, technology-driven surveillance and cyberbullying of gender and sexual minorities is increasing. These tactics are now common occurrences worldwide, leading to workplace discrimination, physical attacks, blackmail, arrest, detention, torture, sexual assault, and murder of gender and sexual minorities.
CHAPTER 2. TOWARDS UNDERSTANDING THE DIGITAL GENDER GAP IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH
This chapter highlights the significant demand-side challenges to achieving the SDG goals related to ICTs, including cost of devices and services, low education and associated income levels, digital literacy gaps, and limited availability of local and relevant content.
The extent of mobile phone ownership and the gender gap aligns broadly — though not perfectly — with GNI per capita. The richest of the surveyed countries show the lowest gender gap. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh show the largest gender gap in mobile phone ownership and among the largest in internet use. There are notable exceptions to this pattern: Colombia, with lower overall mobile penetration, has gender parity in mobile ownership; and in South Africa, with high income disparity, more women than men own mobile phones.
CHAPTER 3. TECHNOLOGIES AND YOUTH: KEY DIMENSIONS FOR INVESTIGATING GENDER DIFFERENCES IN INTERNET ACCESS AND USE
This chapter investigates the activities of young people online in Brazil and discusses their views on privacy and cyber violence as well as how they manage their information online.
The experience of young people sets the stage for gender inequality in later life. In Brazil, both boys and girls aged 11–17 believe that parents are more restrictive and controlling of girls’ use of the internet. Many attribute this difference to gendered norms of what is appropriate or acceptable for girls. However, limited access to ICT may influence how children find and uptake opportunities.
Girls have more concerns about their personal information online being more exposed to risky situations; they are also more likely to suffer negative consequences from this than boys.
The non-consensual disclosure of nude photos is gender-based: girls’ photos are disclosed by boys, without consent. The consequences of such actions are perceived as extremely problematic for girls, with consequences ranging from changing schools to depression and suicide attempts. Both girls and boys say they don’t know how to proceed or who to turn to for help in situations of non-consensual disclosure of nude photos.
INTERSECTIONALITY, AND UNIVERSAL DESIGN: HOW OVERLAPPING FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION LIMIT ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY FOR WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES
This chapter examines the relationship between the gender digital gap and other forms of social disadvantage and discrimination, such as disabilities.
Research on ICT accessibility has not yet fully examined the socio-economic and socio-political mechanisms that persons with disabilities experience accessing ICTs, particularly women with disabilities in the Global South. “Accessibility,” as generally understood, is accessible for a small fraction of people with disabilities.
Universal design provides a useful tool for promoting both access and accessibility of ICTs; it provides a framework for understanding the overlapping forms of discrimination that women with disabilities experience in accessing and using ICT.
CHAPTER 5. ICT IN A CHANGING CLIMATE: A PATH TO GENDER-TRANSFORMATIVE FOOD SECURITY
This chapter reviews women’s access to and use of climate and agriculture information; it provides examples of successful strategies for reaching women, and suggestions for further research and programming to promote gender equality.
ICTs can play an important role in facilitating support to women in the critical areas defined by FAO for food security: livelihood support, reducing women’s workloads, ensuring protection from gender-based violence, and equitable access to resources and services.
ICT and information services have the potential to promote gender equality and empowerment of rural women, if they contribute to needs and priorities of both women and men in rural areas and increase their resilience to cope with climate change. Currently, however, information is not reaching women farmers adequately.
“Mixed” approaches may provide the most successful means to reach women with agriculture and climate information, in view of women’s low resource access and the widespread gender norms that inhibit women’s information access. Intermediary organisations, such as farmer associations and women’s organisations, also serve as important avenues for women’s information access.
CHAPTER 6. THE ROLE OF EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN CLOSING STEM EDUCATION GAPS
This chapter reviews lessons learnt from various countries’ experiences and provides key recommendations for educational institutions to increase female student enrolment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
The lack of female role models in STEM has been cited as a major factor in the low uptake of STEM programmes and courses by young girls in both elementary and higher educational institutions.
The lack of a diverse academic and research STEM workforce in educational institutions, particularly in management roles, leads to perceptions of STEM as a male-dominated domain. Academic institutions thus find it difficult to attract and retain women both as students and as employees in STEM.
Policies such as student funding incentives, gender-sensitive institutional admission criteria, and gender-sensitive curriculum designs, all have a role in increasing the representation of skilled women in STEM.
CHAPTER 7. THE GENDER WAGE GAP IN THE DIGITAL ERA: THE ROLE OF SKILLS
This chapter examines whether women are equipped with the skills needed to navigate the digital economy. It analyses data from 31 countries to compare the returns to skills for men and women in terms of wages, and how these returns vary between digital-intensive and other industries.
Variations in workers’ skills, both cognitive and non-cognitive, explain only part of the gender wage gap.
Men generally obtain higher returns than women for the same high-demand skills in digitally intensive sectors, but not in less digitally intensive industries.
Men on average are more likely than women to have the task-based skills that are most demanded in digital-intensive industries: managing and communication, self-organization, and advanced numeracy skills. Women are more likely than men to have specific ICT task-based skills, and they are better rewarded for them, in both digital-intensive and less digital-intensive sectors.
CHAPTER 8. SKILLS DEVELOPMENT AND YOUNG WOMEN’S WORK IN THE CALL CENTRE INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA
This chapter presents findings from qualitative focus group discussions and individual interviews exploring skills development for young women working as agents in call centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Study participants questioned the ability of call centers to promote technical skills development. This was primarily because more emphasis was put on the development of “people skills” than on technical or digital skills, irrespective of the technological systems in use.
Training formats for key competencies varied from organization to organization and could include memorizing scripts; basic keyboard skills, including word processing and speed typing; communication skills of pronunciation, phone etiquette, and voice demeanor. Some participants indicated that training consisted primarily of hands-on experience on the shop floor.
The skills developed in call centres were generally specific to work in call centres and not transferable to other work. Few leadership positions were available, and there was a lack of personal growth.
CHAPTER 9. A GENDER PERSPECTIVE ON SECURITY AND PRIVACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE
This chapter explores the fundamental notions of digital security and privacy from a gender perspective. It details how the lack of knowledge of online security and privacy can have a deeply negative effect on technology users, especially women.
Technology unfortunately provides a wider platform for abuse targeted at women. The solution requires both individual digital skills to enhance personal security and privacy, and women’s participation in design and development of security and privacy technologies.
In the field of Information Security, women are largely underrepresented: globally, women account for just 11% of the cyber security workforce, mainly in non-managerial positions.
Security technology is gendered; cryptography incorporates gendered assumptions relating to sources of threat, potential “trusted” allies, and resource availability. More diverse design principles need to be developed.
INVESTIGATING EMPOWERING NARRATIVES AROUND WOMEN, WORK, AND TECHNOLOGY
This chapter examines the gendered ways in which women’s engagement with technology is portrayed and investigates the view (known as technological determinism) that technology is automatically bringing about progress and benefits for women.
Historically, when women have been engaged in fields using technology, those fields of employment are defined as low-skilled and low-prestige (e.g. textile production). Similarly today, although women are actively involved in digital technology production, their contribution is undervalued and the fields where they work become less attractive.
The business model of many large internet-based companies, such as Google or Facebook, is to either sell (and resell) user data or to monetize it through data analysis. Considering this, a new school of thought proposes that online activities create valuable data and might be understood as work that should be compensated. Nevertheless, this work is often undervalued, invisible, and regarded as unskilled.
Early writings on the impacts of technology assumed gender-neutral effects, as if the technology is created outside social constructs and limitations. The potential benefits of ICT need to be viewed in the context of women’s lived experiences of these technologies.
CHAPTER 11. A GENDER PERSPECTIVE ON TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND WEALTH CREATION
This chapter examines the current patent shortage among women, and explores how social innovation and support from NGOs and global development organisations can work to make technology transfer more gender inclusive.
Virtually all indicators related to gender balance in the World Intellectual Property Organisation Patent Cooperation Treaty show some degree of progress toward gender parity in recent decades. However, based on current rates of progress, gender balance in patenting will not occur until 2070.
The most significant determinant in the gender gap in technology transfer is women’s underrepresentation in patent-intensive fields (especially electrical and mechanical engineering), and in patent-intensive jobs (especially development and design).
Women with STEM degrees are only slightly more likely to patent an innovation than women without a STEM degree.
“HELLO SIRI, HOW DOES THE PATRIARCHY INFLUENCE YOU?”— UNDERSTANDING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND GENDER INEQUALITY
This chapter examines the gendered implications of artificial intelligence (AI), especially in low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. It identifies the ways in which AI shapes gender relationships — and vice versa — by exploring examples of AI applications from various disciplinary fields.
Far from being neutral, AI-based applications are gendered from their creation — by the inherent bias of their creators, or through bias in the data they rely on. For example:
The training data used for machine learning may under-represent women and lead to skewed results;
Advertising may reward the targeting of men more than women;
Ride-sharing algorithms may pay men more than women;
AI systems typically replicate the way their designers view language (usually from a male perspective).