The post in homage to this March 8 is coordinated and written by us, women who integrate IRIS. We have joined forces to talk about something essential to women’s achievements in internet governance, in which we are inserted: the obstacles that mark the persistence of gender inequality and that remain to be addressed.
What’s behind the obstacles?
When we look at one of our areas of study, internet governance, we find women prominent and influential. However, this is not a picture of the area of information technology in general.
IT is suffering from a shortage of skilled people, says researcher Eileen M. Trauth. One factor for this, according to her, is the under-representation of segments of the population. One of these underrepresented segments is women. In Brazil, only 17% of the positions in the programming area are occupied by women.
The lack of women is also observed within institutions that act directly with internet governance. For example, the directive board of the Internet Governance Committee in Brazil (CGI.br) has only 2 women among 19 men, and the Brazilian delegation that participated in the annual meeting of ICANN 57, the central corporation in coordinating the flow of data in the network, was attended by 8 men and no woman. Therefore, even though the ARPANET times scenario has changed, the lack of participation of women in the main decision-making spheres involving the past, present and future of the internet is pungent.
Changing this reality depends on further reflection: studies in the area of information systems that consider gender as an important social factor are rare. Still, in general the theme is studied quantitatively, without concern for the context of women.
Trauth’s research points to another obstacle – the two ideals that emerge when talking about barriers to women in IT: belief in a “feminine essence” (psychological or biological) that makes women less predisposed to this type of activity; and the theory that the IT environment is socially constructed as an area of male dominance.
These explanations, of a “feminine nature” or of “male fields,” extend from the IT field to other fields, held as positions of power in society.
Thus, participation of women as subjects in these places is denied, confining us to three unsatisfactory exits: 1) that the woman has to abandon certain characteristics considered as feminine to adapt to the environment; 2) that the field of labor must change, acquiring more feminine characteristics; 3) that women and men should receive training and perform tasks that are distinct and gender-appropriate.
We need to consider women’s voices
As for insertion in technology, Trauth also points to the need for more studies on women as individuals. It is important to analyze the perspectives of women on the role played, on their identification as a woman and their connection with the area in which they act. It takes a better picture of how certain realities self-reproduce.
In a survey about women in IT, Trauth noticed some points in common among the interviewees, such as the fact that they considered themselves different from other women, as well as an above average ability and greater autonomy and self-confidence for learning. Some experiences shared by them were that there is less advance preparation for women to enter IT studies; that the problem of inequality is recognized as such, but its existence in the IT area is denied; that the normalization of women as subjects of the area in the local culture is a stimulus for women to act in this field; and that having female teachers inspires the permanence of women entering the studies.
Thus, as the study suggests, in addition to statistics or projections, women should be protagonists in the studies and measures adopted to overcome gender inequality that still persists in the reality of IT and other interdisciplinary areas related to technology, such as law , public policy, anthropology and social sciences, business administration, advertising and social communication, for example.
Why do we need more women in technology?
It is virtually unison the understanding that more diverse teams perform better. In the context of the 4th industrial revolution and the daily launch of new technologies, for individuals and companies to remain competitive in the financial market, it is necessary to adapt to changes and identify innovative solutions.
In this regard it is the hiring of professionals with different experiences and visions in order to reduce the so-called “anesthesia of discernment”, a social phenomenon that emerges when people with the same ideological and reasoning line decide on an object in a homogeneous way and stagnate the development of the company or agency.
To illustrate the contribution that the experience of being a woman can bring to the professional environment, Cristine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, points out practical information: “Half the computers, half the cars and 70% of the domestic products are bought by women. If customers are women, it’s a good idea to include women in leadership”.
Only 25% of the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which are usually very well paid areas, are occupied by women. And this does not reflect a problem of aptitude, but of incentives and perspective – something men generally have since childhood, with male role models and stereotypes of the male scientist.
We know that, in addition to the incentive, achieving gender equity in the technical-scientific areas is not only a change of mentality, but also an educational policy. With this in mind, the OECD has launched a Guide on Gender Equity in Education, which brings together research on the school reality of boys and girls, ways in which the family and society interfere with the potential of female students, as well as policies and practices aimed at promoting the full potential of the students and students. In addition, it brings together examples of what countries around the world are doing for education to achieve equity.
Therefore, considering the context of women’s historic financial dependence on their spouses and parents, the training and professionalization of women in IT area contributes to the country’s economic development as to the achievement of a more equitable society.
The UN Women also points to the need to engage women with technology and suggests innovation as one of the ways to overcome gender inequalities. The organization seeks to to to celebrate a future in which innovation and technology create unprecedented opportunities for women and girls to play an active role in creating more inclusive systems, efficient services and sustainable infrastructures to advance the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and gender equality. Considering this, the UN Women chose the motto:
Let’s go together!
The idea of carrying out actions that aim to include more girls and women with regard to technology also involves the idea that each one is an example, a precedent, an inspiration and an incentive for another. The international women’s day is, above all, a call to recognize the challenges imposed by society in the various fields of science and technology, and to take action to overcome them.
The performance of each woman on the Internet, whether in the technical community, civil society, academia, the business sector or government, also influences the representativeness of decisions regarding Internet governance. The engagement of women in governance was the theme of a panel discussion at the 2018 Internet Forum in Brazil. The IGF – Internet Governance Forum – highlighted the importance of gender equality in the sessions on Human Rights, Gender and Youth in 2018. The women’s participation in decision-making on the internet also relates to the understanding that human development passes through gender equality in the Information Society.
In order for more women to get to know through work of other female engineers, journalists, lawyers, researchers, scientists, managers and entrepreneurs, the #WomeninGovernance campaign seeks to centralize under the hashtag, fueled by women themselves, their actions, voices, struggles, how they are present on internet and its governance. Get involved too, by publicizing your work and showing that while a long road for gender equity still needs to be traversed on the Internet and beyond, we are taking steps – and we hope so many others will come with us!