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Have you ever watched a movie with an all-male cast and felt like something was missing? Then it occurred to you that there were no women, and the ‘softness’ they bring was not there? That’s how important women are in every sector of society. When we empower women and girls, we contribute to the prosperity and sustainability of society. One avenue we can use to empower women and improve gender equality is through 4IR.
Today’s article focuses on SDG 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. It builds on the original article of 4IR & Sustainability. We will look at how to marry 4IR and SDG 5.
The Gender Gap
The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum places the global gender gap at 68%. It says that at the current trajectory, it will take 135.6 years to close the gap worldwide. That is a very long time frame, but with the help of 4IR, we can continue to make good strides in bridging the gender gap.
Despite the progress made to empower women and improve gender equality, the COVID-19 crisis has rolled back some of the progress made.
Effect of COVID-19 on Gender Equality
One of the key findings of the UN is that the COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the burden of unpaid domestic and care work and squeezing women out of the labour force. These women end up staying at home and taking care of their families. They miss out on opportunities to work or gain digital skills. By empowering women through 4IR technologies, we can witness a further closing of the gender gap in economic opportunities.
Below are 5 ways that 4IR can empower women and improve gender equality. By providing access to the internet and increasing the digital literacy of women, we can speed up the closing of the gender gap.
1. Encourage Women to take part in the Platform Economy
Wikipedia defines the platform economy as the economic and social activity facilitated by platforms. These platforms are online sales and technology frameworks. Examples include Amazon, Airbnb, Uber, etc. Women can take advantage of the platform economy to uplift their standard of living and that of their families.
Digital2Equal is an IFC (International Finance Corporation) initiative launched in 2018 in partnership with the European commission. It brought together leading technology companies across the online marketplace to boost opportunities for women in emerging markets. Some member companies include Airbnb, Facebook, Jumia, Lazada, etc.
In 2018, Airbnb partnered with the World Bank and Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission to hold home-sharing training sessions in India. The program was to better equip women to earn money by becoming hosts on Airbnb. In 2019, Indian women earned more than Rs 100 crore ($14 million) on Airbnb. They now make up 34% of Airbnb’s stays hosts and 40% of Experience hosts. This is an initiative that other platforms can roll out around the world to empower women and improve gender equality.
2. Women can Take Advantage of the Gig Economy
According to a Hyperwallet Report, many women turn to gig work for benefits such as flexibility and work-life balance. It says that 86% of female gig workers believe gig work offers the opportunity to make equal pay to their male counterparts. Opportunities in the gig economy will empower women to find the flexibility they need. New mums, unemployed women and those who want an additional income stream will benefit from the gig economy.
A report by Mercy Corps says that the online gig economy in Kenya has grown over the last decade. It also says the gig economy is transforming how Kenyans access work and is transitioning young Kenyans towards more accessible, competitive, and consistent job opportunities. The gig economy gives women the opportunity to find work based on their talents and passions.
Kenyan women are using various platforms to offer gigs of their choice. These platforms include Uber, Upwork, Fiverr, among others.
3. Increase the 4IR Literacy of Women and Girls around the World
If women are to take part in the 4th Industrial Revolution, they must start by educating themselves on what it is. If men and women share the care burden of the home, women can have more time to pursue digital literacy skills. Besides this, we can have training and educational programs geared towards empowering women for 4IR.
STEMbees in Ghana is a non-governmental organization focused on mentoring young African females to pursue their dreams and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Its goal is to increase participation of girls and women in STEM to minimize the gender gap. They introduce them to differed careers in STEM and technology. STEMbees also teaches them robotics, 3D Technology and Printing, Electronics, Cyber-Security, and LEGO education. Who ever thought that Legos could create a school learning system? Most of us only played with them when we were kids. Anyway, STEMbees has mentored 1500+ girls and women.
4. Recognition and Awards for Women in 4IR
Recognizing and awarding women for driving the 4IR agenda forward will empower them and close the gender gap. We have many forums and organizations that are taking this step and encouraging women who take part in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The founder and CEO of TechaWatt, Evelyn Ngatia, is a multi-award winning 4IR thought leader. She is a winner of the InspiringFifty UK 2021 Awards, and Onalytica has listed her among the Who’s Who in the Industry 4.0. Thinkers360 has recognized Evelyn as among The Top 50 Global Thought Leaders in Emerging Technology. She is also a board member of the Women in Tech Commission at the European Technology Chamber. She has spoken in different forums such as EastAfricaCom, Infrastructure Africa Business Forum, among others. Her company, TechaWatt, has joined the European Technology Chamber (EUTECH) as an advocate.
By awarding and recognizing women, we make great strides in closing the gender gap because women bring in the same expertise as men into the marketplace.
5. Providing Career Opportunities for Black Women
One marginalized group in the world of work is the black woman. According to a report by Lean In, there is a general pattern: women are having a worse experience than men, women of colour are having a worse experience than white women, and black women are having the worst experience of all. This means that we need initiatives that will uplift black women in the workplace.
TLA Black Women in Tech is a not-for-profit organization that builds bridges of opportunity in tech, enabling black female talents to excel and companies to have access to black women of talent. It advocates for diversity and inclusion in employment.
Youth for Technology Foundation prepares youth and women to enter a workforce that will be more global, digital and entrepreneurially focused. The organization runs programs in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, among others. One of their core programs is 3D Africa, which teaches participants how to do 3D printing and sell one’s products, and also build a business around 3D printing. They also have a 3D printing academy for girls still in school.
If women are to have equal opportunities as men in all sectors of society, then we need to be intentional in creating an inclusive environment. Initiatives to ensure gender parity need to come from both men and women who are in positions or power and authority, and can influence decision making and policies.
It is possible to embed gender equality in current and emerging roles and ensure that women do not remain behind in the future of work. Taking these kinds of steps will definitely empower women and improve gender equality.
To learn more about the emerging technologies of 4IR, get a copy of Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution.
If you would like to develop Strategic 4IR Skills, sign up for the 4IR Foundation Course at the 4IR Academy.