‘Need to overhaul patriarchal structures perpetuating gender inequality, especially in the technology sector’
Gender digital divide is fast becoming the new face of gender inequality, warned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at Women’s Civil Society Town Hall in New York on March 13, 2023. The UN chief pledged to raise $300 million over the next three years for women’s organisations and human rights defenders in crisis situations.
The UN head was speaking at a town hall meeting with civil societies at the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
After years of incremental progress, women’s and girls’ rights have stalled and are going into reverse, remarked Guterres. Women and girls now face a new source of discrimination and bias: Digital technology.
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Today’s digital technology often uses algorithms designed by a male-dominated tech industry based on male-dominated data, he said.
Rather than presenting facts and addressing bias, technology based on incomplete data and badly designed algorithms is digitising and amplifying sexism; with deadly consequences, he warned.
Guterres called for promoting education and training in digital skills for women and girls, algorithms that align with human rights and gender equality, and investments in bridging the digital gender divide.
He also stressed the need to connect everyone, everywhere, to the Internet by 2030.
Artificial intelligence will be shaping the world of the future. Without women’s equal input, it will continue to be a man’s world, he added.
Centuries of patriarchy and damaging stereotypes prevent women innovators from getting the recognition they deserve, the UN chief further said. Not a single woman has walked on the Moon while 12 men have done so, he pointed out.
Stereotypes push girls away from studying science, engineering and maths, and strangle the careers of women scientists, Guterres said, calling for a push forward in the face of patriarchal pushback.
Halfway to the United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals (SDGs) deadline of 2030, half of humanity is largely being left behind, he said. In every region, women are worse off than men, earning less and doing up to 10 times more unpaid care work.
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At the global level, I have been calling for an SDG Stimulus that will enable all Governments, particularly those in the Global South, to be able to invest in gender equality in the context of all the Sustainable Development Goals.
Rather than uplifting women and girls by providing access to education, health care and financial services, technology is often used to harm and control them through surveillance and trafficking, he further said, drawing focus to an exponential increase in gender-based violence online.
UN report Our Common Agenda recommends transformative steps for gender equality, including measures to complement gross domestic product (GDP) so that women’s care work is given its true value in national accounts, Guterres recommended.
UN is also promoting a Code of Conduct for Information Integrity on digital platforms that will aim to reduce harm and increase accountability online while defending the right to freedom of expression, he added.
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