International Women's Day: Innovation and technology for gender equality
On 7 March 2023, UN Women Moldova hosted the event "Empowering women in a digital world" in honour of International Women's Day. The event sought to encourage women and girls from the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to follow a career in IT or STEM, along with strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration in digital fields.
The topic of the event was in line with this year’s theme of the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67): "Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.” The United Nations chose this theme to recognise and celebrate women and girls who promote transformative technologies and digital education and to also examine the digital gender divide in light of worsening economic and social inequalities.
In his greeting message, Radu Marian, President of the Parliamentary Committee on Economy, Budget and Finance, said: "Throughout history, for centuries, we have lost half of human potential, just because we had preconceptions. Our task, as a state, is to ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities in their careers.” He explained that more work needs to be done to not only support working-age women but also girls, who will soon choose education and career paths. He concluded: “Regardless of gender, we must all know that we can make valuable contributions to the economy and have value in society!"
At the beginning of the event, Viorel Garaz, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Development and Digitalisation, discussed the importance of joining efforts to support the education system in providing children and younger generations with digital and innovation skills that will enable them to “forge both our present and our future.” “The Ministry of Economic Development and Digitalisation points out the importance of promoting gender equality in all sectors of the national economy and supporting educational and training projects that concern the participation of women in business,” he said. “I urge all of you to be promoters of change and build an equal world for all."
Simon Springett, UN Moldova’s Resident Coordinator, said that closing the gender digital divide and harnessing technology for the political and socioeconomic empowerment of women is essential for national development. “Prioritising inclusion in the digital economy and society is not only a matter of equity but of simple math: without the insights and creativity of half the population, science and technology will only meet half of its own potential,” he said, adding that the benefits of digital technologies must be equally distributed and anchored in human rights-based approaches. “Promoting women's full contributions to science, technology and innovation is not an act of charity,” he said. “It’s a necessity that benefits everyone."
Dominika Stojanoska, UN Women Moldova’s Country Representative, said that the gender digital divide prevents women from unlocking the full potential of technology, especially in a world where technology reflects and furthers inequalities. “With women making up only 22 per cent of global artificial intelligence workers and with 44.2 per cent of AI systems demonstrating gender bias, it is clear that the underrepresentation of women in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance,” she said. “Through capacity building events, public awareness and the creation of women-friendly working spaces, more girls and women in Moldova are actively engaging in the digital world and benefiting from the opportunities technology and innovation can offer."
The event included two discussion panels on three important topics: digital education, employment and digital entrepreneurship. Together, experts and leaders in these fields provided insight to give women and girls a platform to learn socialise and develop a career in IT.
The importance of digital education and skills amid rapid technological changes in recent years was highlighted. The participants discussed how women and girls could be given equal education opportunities in IT and STEM and about existing projects and initiatives that encourage these skills. The event also explored the impact of digital entrepreneurship in the Republic of Moldova and how it can help encourage women to grow their businesses in an ever-changing digital environment. Representatives of civil society organizations, academia, the private sector, thought leaders and beneficiaries of the projects attended the event, which was implemented with the support of UN Women and female students familiar with the challenges and opportunities women encounter in an increasingly digital world.
The ICT field is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Republic of Moldova’s economy. There is still a significant gender gap in this field, though. In 2022, women employed in ICT careers were paid 42.8 per cent less than men.