International Womens Day 2023

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IWD2023 is shaping up well for me so far.

We will be be naming a lecture theatre after an inspirational but overlooked woman of science- Charlotte Murchison

The book ‘Dangerous Women’ will be published in the USA

My article has been published in the JPAAP special edition Vol. 11 No. 1 (2023): Special Issue on Breaking the Gender Bias in Academia and Academic Practice https://jpaap.ac.uk/JPAAP/issue/view/34

I am also giving a talk for edtech company Instructure (the people who have sold us our new badging system) about:

“Empowerment through Education: Discussing the importance of education in empowering women and girls.”

so I’d better get some thinking about that.

IWD began in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman’s Day.

It is lovely to see so many activities across ISG to celebrate International Women’s Day this year as every year. It has been a real team effort to raise awareness, thank you.

International Women’s Day has become a date to celebrate how far women have come in society, in politics and in economics, while we are in the  middle of a sustained period of industrial action in this university  strikes and protests  and events are organised on campus to raise awareness of continued inequality. Striking ( collective bargaining by Beatrice Webb economist , founder of LSE)

The first theme adopted by the UN (in 1996) was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”.The UN’s theme for 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This theme aims to recognise and celebrate the contribution women and girls are making to technology and online education.

Some of you may have heard me before going on about the pay gap  ( big) and the pensions gap ( twice as big) . There is also a digital  gap  and the UN estimates that women’s lack of access to the online world will cause a $1.5 trillion loss to gross domestic product of low and middle-income countries by 2025 if action isn’t taken.

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.

Digital literacy has become almost as important as traditional literacy.

Over 90% of jobs worldwide already have a digital component* and most jobs will soon require sophisticated digital skills. If we equip girls with digital skills through prioritising education in IT subjects,  girls will thrive in places  where digital skills are prized. This is already true.

We can strive to highlight the ways in which the work we do goes someway to addressing inequality and achieving the UNSDGs. Technology and digital education can increase the awareness of women and girls regarding their rights and civic engagement as well as offering careers for those with a range of digital skills.

In Scotland there is still a significant gap in IT education in schools. The recent report from the British Computing Society “Landscape Review: Computing Qualifications in the UK” found that in all UK nations, computer science subjects are the least popular amongst the sciences and male-female balance in class is often six to one.

  • girls are outnumbered six to one by boys in computer science classes across the UK.
  • women  who do choose computing,  outperform their male counterparts on average.

Participation in computer science in Scotland had been falling steadily over recent years but happily increased in 2021, possibly down to the growing popularity of new digitally focused areas of the curriculum, the higher profile of hybrid working and the good work EDINA have done to embed data science in so many schools. When fewer than 20% of the people working in the tech sector in Scotland are women, we must be vigilant to ensure that the kinds of work we do here in ISG is open to all.

“The Digimap for Schools service enables students to develop fundamental digital and data skills as well as increasing teacher confidence through the provision of valuable resources, lesson plans and ideas. Together with EDINA, we are confident that eligible schools will benefit greatly from free use of Digimap for Schools and the many associated learning resources.”

The Scottish Government has included digital technology as one of the six key sectors in which Scotland has a ‘distinct competitive advantage’. With low numbers of women working and girls studying to be in the sector, this competitive advantage is at risk.

Universities are big employers. University of Edinburgh is one of the largest tech employers in Scotland.

On the upside, in both the HE and IT sectors there are national pressures from policy organisations to increase the numbers of women in senior and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles. Highly qualified women are likely to be in high demand, and employers who offer visible support for inclusion will reap rewards in recruitment. You can find us on Women in Tech jobs board.

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