Women and Digital Transformation
Sustainable growth and gender equality are not only compatible, but concordant. In order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we first need to achieve gender parity. But gender inequality continues to hold both women and the world back.
Of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gender equality cuts across every one of them. Global challenges like extreme poverty, food insecurity, and barriers to health and wellbeing, among others, all have gender-specific indicators that are disproportionally impacting women and girls while also suppressing the ideas and leadership needed to solve these problems. Closing this gap will rely on technology to not only improve the outcomes of women on an individual level, but to also improve the gender data, statistics and analyses needed to ultimately prioritize gender-responsive investments and policies.
At BCIU, we believe it’s imperative for global companies to carefully consider and understand diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues around the world. In conjunction with the U.S. Commerce Department’s Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment (WELLTI) initiative, BCIU facilitated a panel at the WELLTI Summit at Trade Winds 2022 in Dubai.
Titled, “Women & Digital Transformation,” the session examined how the public and private sectors can better support women in the social and economic digital transformations underway worldwide. On the margins of the WELLTI Summit, we sat down with BCIU’s Senior Vice President, Nina Kundra, to discuss the progress being made toward gender equality in the workplace, who is making that progress, and why technology plays a key role in achieving gender parity.
“We have events like this because it’s important to know what still needs to be done,” Kundra said. “There are still gaps. We can make all this progress, but how? No matter how much work we’re doing, there’s still more work to be done.”
Private companies leading the way
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, progress was being made toward a more equitable workplace. Though the advancements were slow, intentional efforts to bring gender parity to the evaluation and promotion processes transformed boardrooms, especially in Silicon Valley. In California, where there are state requirements for publicly traded companies to have more diverse board members, the number of women on boards has doubled since 2018.
“Absolutely, having a more diverse workforce makes a stronger workforce,” Kundra says. “Diversity and inclusion – that’s what will push an organization forward. And those benefits help push companies to think differently about whom their employees are and who they include on their boards.”
There is a business case for companies to embrace DEI. Companies that prioritize DEI initiatives and programs are not just socially responsible – they’re often more profitable. These financial incentives are undeniable, which is why, according to Kundra, large private companies are leading the way in terms of progress on gender equality in the workplace.
“It’s the Microsofts, the Ciscos. They’re the ones that have really taken action in terms of making DEI a priority over the last several years,” she says. “It’s not something short term. They’ve slowly been making incremental changes to get to where we are now.”
Gender equality relies on technology
Unfortunately, the pandemic has delayed or even reversed the progress that was being made on many of the SDGs, including gender equality. The pandemic has also further revealed the gender digital divide, with women facing more challenges in accessing information and communication technologies (ICTs), disproportionally impacting their education and employment opportunities.
Women’s access to technology is necessary to achieve gender equality, close the skills gap and improve economic outcomes around the world. Kundra also believes that it’s the power of partnerships, and the responsibility private companies have in closing this divide, that can advance gender parity.
“Especially in the post-COVID world, how we can support these economies?” she says. “There’s a digital component, obviously, but when it comes to how we really transform society and support economies globally? It’s more than that. That’s why it’s not just ICT companies participating in this panel. These issues are interconnected.”
BCIU facilitated the “Women & Digital Transformation” panel at the WELLTI Summit in Dubai on March 7, 2022, featuring BCIU Chair Jim Nevels, Anne Mclaren, CEO of American Tower Corporation South Africa; Razan Gharaibeh, UAE & Oman Country Lead at Organon; Ebru Pakcan, CEO, EMEA Emerging Markets at Citi; and Reem Asaad, Vice President, Middle East and Africa at Cisco. BCIU will continue to focus its efforts and programming on issues related to gender equality and DEI.