NATO marks International Women’s Day with conference on gender equality in technology
On International Women’s Day (8 March 2023), experts from across the Alliance convened at NATO Headquarters to discuss the role that women and gender play in shaping future technologies and how technologies need to be adapted to empower and protect women and men equally in both civilian and military domains.<!IoRangePreExecute>
Entitled “Innovators and Game Changers: Women in Tech Shaping the Future”, this hybrid conference brought together representatives from NATO capitals, academia and industry. Irene Fellin, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, opened the event. She emphasized the correlation between peace and gender equality, both online and offline. The digital gender gap, she said, “sets gender equality and democracy back” and “has a profound economic impact”. She added: “we must all work together to bridge the major gender gap in technology. Across the NATO Enterprise, with partners, industry and academia… By including women in science and tech, you take on more brainpower, more ideas, more creativity. That is what we need, what NATO needs, what all of us need.”
While there has been tangible progress to include women in the tech industry over the years, a lot remains to be done. In 2022, women represented only one-third of the workforce, and one-fourth of the leadership positions of the 20 largest global tech companies. At the same time, women are regularly subject to digital abuse and harassment.
Reflecting on the impact of technologies on women in both the civilian and military domains, NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said: “we need to do a much better job, in understanding our environment, and analysing new technologies and their impact on our security through a gender lens. So we can better understand the threat environment, but also the opportunity environment, because they go hand in hand”.
Discussions addressed gender biases in technology, and the risks they pose to women, including in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Participants also raised the issue of women’s access to digital training and education from a very early age on, as well as the challenges and opportunities of attracting, recruiting and retaining women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
NATO’s conference was aligned with the United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2023: DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality.