The old adage that women hold up half the sky had become rather passé in a changing world. With women’s ideas transforming the world, it had been realised that female power could in fact engender new innovations to create a brand new sky!
In all walks of life and especially in STEM, women are creating, designing and innovating to ensure a better future for all. Taking on the digital divide and especially in STEM careers, bridges are being built to eradicate poverty, tackle climate change and fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals. With women more likely to be disadvantaged, who better to create an equitable future?
Making innovation and technology work for women
The United Nation’s Women (UN Women) had embarked on a partnership system to accelerate change and remove existing barriers to women and girl’s advancement in innovation and technology. The aim of this programme, structured in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals – leaving no one behind– are calling for urgent transformative shifts, integrated approaches and innovative solutions to overcome barriers across STEM, providing unprecedented opportunities with the shared goal of achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The 2030 agenda is progressively structured to focus not on incremental change, but bold change, a tsunami to shake the established system to its foundations.
Small and incremental steps will not give us the world we want – UN Women statement
These actions were already sanctioned during the UN Women’s policy dialogues with member states on how to promote an enabling environment to make innovations work for women, in 2017. UN Women successfully hosted its first Global Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Industry Forum during the same year, a one-day global conference where CEOs, social entrepreneurs, innovators and thought leaders would in future, annually meet to share ideas on how innovation and technology can be used to advance gender equality and women’s economic empowerment around the world. Successful partnerships had been created with The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMCA).
Partnering with EQUALS, a global movement aiming to close the gender digital divide in order for females to take part as equal participants in the digital technology revolution, UN Women would assist in identifying and implementing high-impact initiatives for women.
Realising the potential of leveraging big data to improve market research, project planning, design, monitoring and evaluation, UN Women had identified strategic options to establish a working programme. Partnering with Global Pulse, a first report on Gender Equality and Big Data had already been drafted to make gender data visible. Global Pulse is an UN initiative working towards ensuring future real-time monitoring and prediction to development and aid programmes with sub-Saharan Africa at the top of the agenda. This partnership would also accelerate venture funding to provide easier finance access to female enterprises to invest in scalable innovations accelerating gender equality.
One of the identified key steps towards a gender-responsive approach to the innovation cycle is to ascertain whether existing business models explicitly consider adoption constraints faced by women. Barriers to a gender-responsive approach to the innovation cycle would be addressed, as well as the lack of methodologies and tools to include gender throughout the innovation cycle.
Finally, in addition to the UN Women’s actions towards increasing market awareness and investment in female innovation that work for women, the organisation also focuses on various other female promoting approaches towards innovation. These include, inter alia, developing principles, tools and methodologies with other UN agencies and industry partners towards developing a dedicated set of gender innovation principles.
Women’s Empowerment Principles in the private sector
For the private sector, UN Women is building on the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP’s) – a seven step guide to enable businesses to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. To date, close to 1500 global business leaders had demonstrated leadership on gender equality through these WEP’s, applying a free gender gap analysis tool to aide companies in identifying strengths gaps and opportunities to improve gender equality. Furthermore, a Global Innovation Exchange Platform had been established, connecting more than 100 organisations from government, business, academia and civil society to collaborate, share and showcase gender responsive best practices, case studies, innovations and methodologies.