The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023 (IWD 2023) is, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This theme is aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
The United Nations Observance of IWD recognizes and celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education. IWD 2023 will explore the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities. The event will also spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.
Bringing women and other marginalized groups into technology results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. Their lack of inclusion, by contrast, comes with massive costs: as per UN Women’s Gender Snapshot 2022 report, women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low- and middle-income countries in the last decade—a loss that will grow to $1.5 trillion by 2025 without action. Reversing this trend will require tackling the problem of online violence, which a study of 51 countries revealed 38 per cent of women had personally experienced.
A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement. Advancements in digital technology offer immense opportunities to address development and humanitarian challenges, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, the opportunities of the digital revolution also present a risk of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality. Growing inequalities are becoming increasingly evident in the context of digital skills and access to technologies, with women being left behind as the result of this digital gender divide. The need for inclusive and transformative technology and digital education is therefore crucial for a sustainable future.
The United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day under the theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, will be marked by a high-level event on Wednesday, 8 March 2023, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. EST. The event will bring together technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and gender equality activists to provide an opportunity to highlight the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools and be followed by a high-level panel discussion and musical performances.
International Women’s Day’s emergence is owed to the labor movements that happened in North America and Europe at the turn of the 20th century.
UNESCO notes that the Socialist Party of America celebrated the first National Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in honor of the New York 1908 garment workers’ strike in which women demanded change against brutal working situations.
In Russia, women protested and staged a strike under the slogan “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February 1917, ultimately leading to women’s suffrage in Russia.
In 1945, the Charter of the United Nations became the first international agreement that underlined the principle of equality between women and men, while in 1975, coinciding with International Women’s Year, the UN celebrated its first Official International Women’s Day on March 8th.
Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly declared a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, to be celebrated on any day of the year by Member States under their historical and national traditions.
Furthermore, a survey of women journalists from 125 countries found that 73 per cent had suffered online violence in the course of their work. A global analysis of 133 AI systems across industries found that 44.2 per cent demonstrate gender bias. Women make up only 22 per cent of artificial intelligence workers globally.
Today, a persistent gender gap in digital access keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential. Their underrepresentation in STEM education and careers remains a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance. And the pervasive threat of online gender-based violence—coupled with a lack of legal recourse—too often forces them out of the digital spaces they do occupy.
At the same time, digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls and other marginalized groups. From gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality.
We are therefore calling on governments, activists and the private sector alike to power on in their efforts to make the digital world safer, more inclusive and more equitable. Facing a multiplicity of global crises, we have a chance to create a better future; not just for women and girls, but for all humanity and all life on Earth.