In the modern age, digital empowerment serves as a potent tool to level the playing field, particularly when it comes to overcoming gender based inequality. This transformative force not only democratizes access to information but also offers unprecedented opportunities for education, economic growth, and social advancement. Yet, despite the digital realm’s potential for inclusivity, gender-based inequalities persist, casting a shadow over the promise of global progress. This exploration delves into how digital empowerment can act as a catalyst for change, breaking down gender barriers and setting the stage for a more equitable future.

Though the advancement of technology and innovation is creating new spaces of gender based inequality, marginalization, and polarization that are a threat to human rights all around the world.

In the context of the creation of technology, use of technology, and regulation of technology the role of women and girls is unrepresented, especially in the developing and least developing world.

This phenomenon deprived the female gender of the use of digital services and the acquisition of tech-related jobs. As women and girls face severe online harassment and even violence.

This has harmed digital empowerment in an unprecedented manner and restricted the transformative potential of technology. 

The exclusivist policies and environment related to women in the digital world impoverished the world with $1 trillion as reported by the United Nations women agency, UN Women.

There is a dire need to make the digital world inclusive and safer for women and girls in order to create a sustainable future. In this context, UN Women has improvised some measures discussed below.

Bridging Gaps related to Access & Skills in Digital World

The revolution in technology and innovation increased the phenomenon of digitalization in the world but the gender gap in access and lack of skills is threatening gender empowerment. 

Because gender parity decreased over the years, according to a report the absolute gap between men’s and women’s access actually increased by 20 million since 2019.

In the current scenario, 63 percent of women have access to the internet as compared to men which accounts for 69 percent. Though, women are 12 percent less likely to own a mobile phone, a figure virtually unchanged since before the pandemic.

Other factors that facilitated gender based inequality in the digital world are race, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and location. These factors play a role in determining women’s digital access and use. 

Marginalized groups such as older women, rural women, and women with disabilities face significantly greater barriers to connectivity. 

According to a report, in the least developed countries, despite mobile broadband signals covering 76 percent of the population, only 25 percent are connected, and men are 52 percent more likely to be within that online minority.

In order to mitigate this gap, there is a need for effective digital infrastructure and addressing the issues such as affordability, access to electricity, online privacy and safety, social norms, and digital skills and literacy.

The resolution of these issues would create meaningful spaces for women in the digital world. In order to realize this goal, there is a need for greater collaboration & partnership among governments, businesses, and civil society & women’s organizations.

Moreover, the inclusion of gender based inequality and intersectional perspectives into digital plans and policies could catalyze this kind of cross-sector coordination, which would be a crucial starting point for digital empowerment.

Similarly, governments should invest in evidence-based programs and initiatives, such as subsidizing smartphones & laptops for women and girls, and incentivizing the provision of low-cost data plans can go a long way in overcoming gendered access barriers. 

Inclusivity of Women and Girls in Stem

In the current global sector of STEM, the inclusion of women remained low as compared to men. For example, according to UN data, women represent only 28 percent of engineering graduates, 22% of artificial intelligence workers & less than one-third in the tech sector.

Moreover, there are substantial gaps in terms of pay and promotion, such as a 21 percent gap in pay and 52 women of every 100 men getting promotions.

About 48 percent of women and girls experience workplace harassment, and 22 percent of women say they are considering leaving the workforce altogether due to the treatment they’ve received in the sector.

The unequal representation of women in shaping technology, research, investments, and policy is critical. A similar, situation prevails in access to a fast-growing and high-paying career that compounded inequality.

Stereotypes and myths related to women’s intelligence also create such issues and discouraged the role of women in the fields of innovation and technology.

There is a need to focus on the increased representation of women in STEM fields, through the provision of effective solutions. 

For example, providing universal broadband access for teachers, students, and schools and ensuring digital literacy for its users would increase girls’ exposure to STEM.

This phenomenon would also provide opportunities to women and girls of less privileged backgrounds.

As, digital learning would provide new opportunities to adapt educational environments, and development of curricula according to the needs of girls and students from marginalized groups.

Also, there must be the elimination of gender-based biases from schools and ensuring that girls have access to women mentors in STEM fields with whom they can identify. 

Moreover, connect STEM to other disciplines and also emphasizes that girls and women have a choice to pick up careers in science.

Similarly, the inclusion of more and more women in the tech labor market through inculcating skills in them. There must be provisions for minimum wage, regulations against pay discrimination, and social protection systems.

Development of Tech, related to Women and Girls

The creators of technology reflect spaces for inclusion or exclusion. Women and girls have very limited spaces in the creation of technology and innovation.

This also means that digital access gaps mean women produce fewer data than men, and a lack of data disaggregation leads to unequal representation in data sets.

Digital tools that promote sexual and reproductive health, are the natural outcome of decision-making processes that systematically exclude women’s voices, thus, creation depicts decision-making.

The exclusion of women also deprived them of the learning of machine and artificial technology (AI). For example, the global analysis of 133 AI systems, from 1988 to today analyzed that 44.2 % displayed gender bias, with 25.7 % exhibiting both gender and racial bias.

This led to slower service quality, unequal resource distribution, and the reinforcement of harmful stereotypes in the context of women’s empowerment and gender parity.

There is a dire need for the creation of more inclusive and less biased-based tech. The tech is rooted in human rights. 

This would allow the inclusion of marginalized voices and vulnerable women into digital tools. If women take a road of development of gender-related tech, then it would create freedom of expression and accommodation of dissent voices.

The governments, private sector & civil societies need to step in to outline companies’ responsibilities, mandate monitoring mechanisms such as gender impact assessments & ensure data use transparency through mechanisms like mandatory artificial intelligence audits. 

Mitigation of Technology related Gender-Based Violence

There is no universally accepted definition of technology-facilitated gender based inequality, but it can be understood as any act of violence committed, assisted, or aggravated by the use of internet-based facilities on the basis of gender. 

According to UN data, online violence is seriously underreported, as only 1 in 4 women reports violent acts that occurred in the digital world.  

These acts though take place in virtual spheres but create harm in the context of physical, sexual, psychological, social, political, and/or economic. 

This type of violence creates hesitation among women to use technology and innovative spheres. The gender-based violence also forces women and girls, to self-censor, limiting their ability to engage and participate virtually.

Here the use of social media is a more appropriate example to give, where gendered disinformation, misinformation, sexist hate speech, and other factors seriously undermine women’s online expression and movement.

There is a need to mitigate this kind of violence through technological use, such as online surveillance mechanisms. There is also a need to make substantial legal frameworks and strategies to mitigate online violence. 

Also, the teaching related to digital citizenship could help cover online harassment and violence. There is also a need of inculcating empathy and ethical digital media use and teach boys and men to become advocates for gender based inequality.