SALINE, Michigan — U.N. Women, in partnership with the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), launched the first Gender Equality Mainstreaming Technology (GEM-TECH) awards earlier this month as a new way to honor “outstanding contributions from women and men in leveraging the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote gender equality.”
Nominations remain open until September 2014, with seven winners announced the following month.
Each of the seven award categories recognize a different gender-related achievement in the ICT field, including promoting women’s political participation using ICT, supporting women working in the sector, providing young women with the opportunity to learn and use technology, encouraging women’s digital empowerment and using ICT to reduce poverty and gender discrimination.
The winners will receive their awards at the ITU’s 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in late October, where they will be able to showcase to ITU Member States how incredibly influential information and communication technologies can be in closing the gender gap.
The impetus for creating the GEM-TECH awards comes from recently released data that demonstrates just how few women participate in ICT fields.
For example, according to statistics from the National Center for Women and Information Technology, only 26 percent of the ICT workforce is comprised of women. Well-known technology giants are no exception to this rule, with Google recently releasing that less than a third of their employees are women.
However, many organizations, including U.N. Women and the International Telecommunication Union, are doing something to change these statistics.
For example, every year, the ITU holds a “Girls in ICT Day” to “raise awareness about the opportunities of the ICT sector and empower girls and young women with the knowledge that careers in ICT can be for them.”
In celebration of the day, technology companies that are union members open up their facilities to allow young women to experience what working in a tech field is like. Schools can organize guest speakers to visit on behalf of women in information and communication technology sectors. The day also involves organizing career fairs and mentoring programs for young women.
While these programs are a small step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done to reduce gender disparities in technology fields. Doing so would result in progress across the board. As the ITU’s Secretary-General states, “Empowering girls and young women to fulfill their potential through ICTs will benefit not only young women and girls themselves, but entire societies and their economies.”
The Executive Director of U.N. Women agreed, saying, “ICTs can and should be a game-changer for girls and women around the world, providing them with avenues for empowerment and for exercising their rights. We must deliberate in making this happen and these awards celebrate those that are leading this charge.”
– Emily Jablonski
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Girls in ICT, ITU, UN Women
Photo: Claremont Port Side