Closing the Digital Gender Divide

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Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin.
Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin is the United States' candidate to serve as the next Director of the ITU’s Development Sector.

Closing the Digital Gender Divide

Our digital economy is paving the way for a new, more connected, and more prosperous world. Perhaps now more than ever, people across the globe are turning on lights, gaining access to clean water, finding new and exciting ways to learn, and joining the global marketplace for the first time. The power of technology is the power of real change.

Women and girls especially stand to gain from the tech revolution. Because of the progress we’ve made in information and communications technology (ICT) accessibility and affordability, a young girl in a developing country can pick up a smartphone and use it to apply for a career as a programmer or, for that matter, to start her own business. But there are still challenges ahead of us.

According to the World Economic Forum, women account for only 26 percent of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce in developed countries. The gender disparity in the tech workforce is even larger in low and middle income countries that could benefit most from additional workers in the ICT sector. According to a report by McKinsey, advancing women’s equality, including in ICT, could add as much as $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. 

Engaging women and girls in ICT sector work is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart economics.   

That’s why, on April 26th, the United States is joining the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in celebrating International Girls in ICT Day -- an initiative aimed at empowering and encouraging girls and young women globally to pursue education in STEM fields, and become coders, innovators, and technologists. Since the launch of International Girls ICT Day in 2011, over 300,000 girls and young women have taken part in more than 9,000 such celebrations in 166 countries worldwide.

The ITU -- a United Nations body that promotes economic growth by contributing to the connectivity and interoperability of the world's telecommunications networks -- is working to make sure we eliminate the gender gap in an incredibly important field, but it has its own work ahead. According to its gender dashboard, women constitute only 26 percent of participants in all ITU meetings, and represent only 6 percent of Chairs and Vice Chairs of the ITU’s Study Groups, where the organization’s most important policy work is done. In fact, in the ITU’s 153-year history, no woman has ever been elected to one of the agency’s five senior leadership roles.

Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin.

The United States is proud to nominate the accomplished Ms. Doreen Bogdan-Martin to be the next Director of the ITU’s Development Sector. Ms. Bogdan-Martin has more than 25 years of professional telecommunications experience. She worked on development issues at the ITU for half of her career, helping developing countries take full advantage of information and communications technology. Currently, she is serving as chief of the ITU’s Strategic Planning Department. Her leadership, drive, and vision will enable her to lead ITU efforts to promote innovation, digital literacy, and greater digital connectivity for the 3.9 billion people without access to the Internet. 

As the most senior-ranked woman currently serving at the ITU and architect of Equals, the ITU’s new gender empowerment initiative, Ms. Bogdan-Martin is well-prepared to advance the ITU’s connectivity goals and also to help the ITU overcome gender inequality in the ICT sector. 

ITU members have the unique opportunity to break through a glass ceiling, and the United States urges them to elect U.S. citizen Bogdan-Martin to be the next Director of the ITU’s Development Sector during their October leadership elections at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai. She’s an asset not only to women in the ICT sector, but to the sector as a whole. 

About the Authors: Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rob Strayer serve in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.com.

Manisha Singh
Robert Strayer