In a time when connectivity is more important than ever, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) remains committed to its mission to address digital inequalities around the world. Closing the digital divide has been a longstanding focus for Doreen Bogdan-Martin, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT).
She notes that, right now only around half the world’s population uses the Internet, and in the world’s 47 least developed countries, that share drops to only one in five. But even that figure hides a worrying and widening “digital gender divide.” Over the past year, “the COVID-19 pandemic has not only highlighted the critical role of ICTs in the functioning of society but has further emphasized digital inequalities – including between women and men.”
Working for gender equality has been central to Bogdan-Martin’s tenure with the ITU. In 2015, she spearheaded the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, bringing together over 100 partners with the goal of empowering more women through better access to digital technologies and inspiring them to become ICT leaders and innovators. And to make her case, Bogdan-Martin is leading by example.
In 2018, she became the first woman ever to achieve one of the top five elected management positions in ITU’s 155-year history. In this role, she brings her own perspective to conversations on gender equality, as well as other key issues. Gender diversity in leadership and decision-making can create better outcomes for everyone. “Greater diversity around the table benefits everyone, all the way from the individuals that make up each organization’s workforce to the world at large,” she says.
In addition to the EQUALS global partnership, Bogdan-Martin has helped pioneer and advance numerous ITU programmes and events to encourage women and girls to engage with STEM topics. The annual EQUALS in Tech Awards recognize “ground-breaking work in promoting gender equality in digital access, skills, leadership, and research,” whie ITU’s Girls in ICT Day, an annual event held on the fourth Thursday in April, is now celebrated in over 170 countries. To date the initiative, to date, has reached “over 360,000 girls and young women through more than 11,000 events.” Bogdan-Martin is also working to expand access to educational ICT workshops through the “Girls Can Code” programme, which was launched in Africa and the Americas in 2020, with plans to expand to other regions in the coming months. These workshops, organized in partnership with partner organizations like UN Women and local tech companies, focus on building digital skills to enable the next generation of female leaders in ICT.
Bogdan-Martin is also actively involved with the new Generation Equality Process facilitated by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of France and Mexico. “Our goal is to develop an impact-oriented blueprint aimed at accelerating progress in bridging the digital gender divide through more active engagement and participation of women and young girls,” she says.
The global economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to include significant growth in technology-related jobs, and Bogdan-Martin is keen to encourage the involvement of young women in this recovery. “I would say to girls and young women: I believe a career in the tech sector is one of the very best choices you can make.”
Join Doreen Bogdan-Martin at PTC’21. You can watch her presentation SDGs and ICTs: Digital as the Drive of Global Development on Tuesday, 19 January 2021 from 11:00-11:30 HST in the Tapa Auditorium of the PTC’21 online conference platform, as well as her participation in the panel discussion Global Policy Shifts, Local Implications on Wednesday, 20 January 2021 from 11:30-12:00 HST.