On the occasion of the International Girls in ICT day 2018, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, together with 76 MEPs, has sent a letter to ministers of all 28 Member States of the European Union urging them to play a more active role in promoting opportunities for women to participate in the digital sector.

Commissioner Gabriel has voiced her concern over the need for more women in the European digital sector and has highlighted the benefits that a change in this trend will have for economic growth. In this context, she, together with 61 MEPs, has sent a letter to the Telecom Council ministers of all 28 Member States, inviting them to take action to provide more opportunities to women, and to encourage greater female participation in the digital sector.

In the letter, she invites ministers to exchange best practices, recognise role models and share existing national objectives on promoting female participation in the digital sector. She also proposes the use of indicators to monitor progress at both European and national level, which can then be published annually in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). She also invites the ministers to discuss these matters at an informal breakfast on the occasion of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council meeting on 4 December 2018.

International Girls in ICT Day Event

As a next step, she will deliver a key note speech at an event on 28 April, in Sofia, Bulgaria, celebrating the International Girls in ICT Day. She will talk about concrete actions related to her strategy, and encourage young girls to take up ICT-related subjects in schools in the interest of developing their digital skills which is a cornerstone for a successful career in this age of digital transformation.

Women in Digital Strategy

Starting from the need to overcome the gender imbalance in the digital sector of the EU job market and education system, the "Women in Digital" strategy was presented at the European Parliament by Commissioner Gabriel on Women's day this year.

The strategy targets the root of the problem, such as why women are not choosing ICT studies or jobs; what role societal pressure plays, and, particularly, the capability of the media to influence choices. In a second step, the strategy explores education and digital skills, such as the actions that can be leveraged to properly address the issue of gender equality in skills and education.  Finally, the strategy focuses on how to ensure girls who studied STEM, and even those who did not, can opt for ICT entrepreneurship. It announces a series of actions to be implemented over the next two years in these three main areas: challenging stereotypes; promoting digital skills and education and advocating for more women entrepreneurs.

The objective of these actions is to facilitate an increase in the participation of women in the digital sector and overcome the obstacles they face.

For this reason, the Commissioner will promote a series of concrete actions:

  • To challenge stereotypes
    • Working with national audiovisual regulators (ERGA) to gather best practices combating stereotyping at national level and promoting gender equality in the audiovisual media,
    • Using tools like the MEDIA programme to promote gender balance in the film industry, and report on the findings,
    • The No Women No Panel campaign initiated by Commissioner Gabriel to raise awareness on having gender balance in panels and public events.
  • To promote digital skills and education
    • Defining European and national indicators to monitor progress on women in digital in a public annual scoreboard.
    • Promoting digital skills for women through the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, as well as inviting companies and organisations to equip more women with digital skills and enticing women to pursue ICT studies and careers
    • Supporting existing digital skills actions such as the EU Code Week, which had 46% involvement of girls and women in 2017.
    • Working with the Digital Champions in every Member State to seek out good practices in digital skills for women and girls.
  • To advocate for more women entrepreneurs

The Commissioner will also spearhead a one-day conference organised by the European Commission on 19 June in Brussels. On this occasion, she will outline her actions more concretely and initiate a discussion with stakeholders on each of the above mentioned topics. The conference will bring together policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs and university students to exchange, debate and map the way forward.

Background

The recent study on Women in the Digital Age indicates a concerning decrease in the number of women opting to study ICT related subjects and taking up jobs in the sector. The number of women in ICT related jobs with a corresponding higher education decreased from 14% in 2011 to 11.8% in 2015.  For every 1,000 female tertiary graduates in the EU, only 24 are graduates in ICT-related fields and only 25% of them end up working in digital jobs. On the other hand, out of every 1,000 male graduates, 92 studied in ICT-related fields, less than 50% of which end up working in digital jobs.

In 2015, only 23.4% of entrepreneurs in the ICT sector in Europe were women. Of the many issues, one of the main problems that women face when starting a tech company is the lack of access to capital, despite the fact that investment in female-founded startups performs 63% better than exclusively male-founded startups.

Quantitative and qualitative analysis suggest that gender inequality in the digital sphere is essentially a result of the persistence of strong stereotypes and preconceptions, with consequences as lack of mentoring and gender bias at the workplace. Therefore, to address this situation, instigating cultural change and initiatives at micro level can play an important role in addressing this situation.

The lack of gender diversity and the reduced female presence in the ICT area will produce negative effects (like skills shortages) and missed opportunities (in terms of innovation and new steps in technological progress) for the European economy and society. For this reason, the Commission is committed to changing the trend and encouraging female participation in the digital sector.

Refer to the infographic for a visual overview of the strategy