Empowering women and girls to acquire skills to become both ICT users and creators in the digital world and STEM fields
2019 EQUALS Skills Coalition Publication
I’d Blush if I Could: Closing gender divides in digital skills through education is the Skills Coalition's first report. This publication analyses the gender gap in ICT skills and the feminization of digital voice assistants, explores the inverse correlation between gender equality and technological skills and education around the world, and provides recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners.
EQUALS Digital Skills Fund
A new fund from the EQUALS Skills Coalition
Download information about a new pilot fund that provides small grants to EQUALS partners for women-led movements and organizations in developing countries to implement digital skills training.
Administrated by: Web Foundation
Skills Coalition Lead Partner:
About the EQUALS Skills Coalition
In the space of a decade, digital skills and competencies have moved from optional to critical. In increasingly technology-saturated societies, the ability to operate a smartphone, navigate the internet and understand how to safeguard information in digital mediums are ‘survival skills.’
Recent United Nations data reveals that digital skills divides across lines of gender are deep, wide and growing. In many national contexts, men are four times more likely than women to have advanced ICT skills such as the ability to programme computers, and similar divides are apparent for basic tasks such as using email or a spreadsheet.
These skills gaps carry serious repercussions for employment. Leading consulting companies estimate that 90% of all future jobs will have a digital component. Despite this, the number of women choosing to pursue technology studies and careers has been declining globally since the 1980s.
Today in Europe, only 1 in 5 technology graduates are female, just 17% of technology jobs are held by women, and app developers are six times more likely to be male than female. Over the past 10 years there has been no measurable improvement in the number of women choosing ICT careers. In the countries that make up the ‘global South,’ this digital skills gender gap is even more severe.
The EQUALS Skills Coalition aims to reverse these troubling trends, helping ensure that digital skills are taught to all children and girls in particular. The Coalition provides guidance to governments and other stakeholders to make digital skills training available to girls and women throughout life.
Evidence shows that the skills divide can be overcome through targeted modifications to education, ICT and gender policies as well as to teaching practices. EQUALS partners – from industry to government and from civil society to academia – are joining forces to create a more balanced digital world, where girls and women are not merely tech consumers, but tech creators and innovators, with the skills and vision to shape their own futures.
Coalition actions include developing principles, guidelines and good practices for gender-transformative skills training and evaluation, as well as expanding activities around the successful International Girls in ICT Day campaign. The Coalition will also launch an EQUALS Digital Skills Grassroots Innovation Fund, and build a virtual skills school to provide certified digital skills training to girls and women who cannot attend on-site classes.
The Skills Coalition, led by Germany and UNESCO, includes over 17 organizations with distinct areas of expertise. By planning and implementing activities collectively, the Coalition is able to maximize its impact and call global attention to efforts to bridge persistent gender digital skills divides.
Beyond concrete activities, the Coalition seeks to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality in digital and physical spaces. It supports movements to identify and publicize powerful female role models to inspire young girls to pursue careers in technology. Media studies show that characters portrayed on television and in film with tech jobs are 80% male. This needs to change, in concert with educational interventions, if we expect to motivate today’s girls to get excited about the prospect of ICT careers.
The Coalition also encourages governments to invest more in digital skills education for women and girls, particularly by helping teachers to acquire digitally-focused qualifications, prompting changes to school curricula to include subjects like coding, and pioneering pedagogical approaches that are more inclusive of female learners. These ideas are presented directly to policy-makers at UN events and other international and national forums.
Why it matters
For young girls to take advantage of the innumerable benefits technology has to offer while staying alert to technology risks, they must have the opportunity to acquire and develop digital skills.
Overall, helping women and girls develop digital skills offers a clear return on investment. It leads to stronger families, stronger communities, stronger economies and stronger technology. This is the goal of the EQUALS Skills Coalition.