This March 8 has a bitter taste with the figures that UN Women and the ILO have revealed regarding the situation of women in the world. The digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality.
LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos
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Leer en español: ¿Más lejos de la igualdad de género? Las brechas han aumentado y tienen nuevas caras
The pandemic caused a social, economic, and political impact that ended in setbacks in many areas: it weakened health systems, increased educational gaps, and increased poverty and inequality rates. Gender equality was not indifferent to its path, and thousands of women in the world found themselves in situations of violation of their rights. For this reason, March 8th arrives with information about the complex status of women and girls in the world and the need to continue fighting to recognize women's rights and establish guarantees to fulfill them.
"They vanish before our eyes": these were the words used by the UN Secretary-General to talk about the advances made over decades in women's rights, which are constantly under threat. In addition, he added that gender equality would be about 300 years away if it continues down the same route. Paradoxically, this same organization is the sample of a button: since its creation, there have been nine general secretaries, none women. However, half of the world's population is female.
Despite this criticism, this organization has specialized agencies, funds, and programs that work worldwide to improve the quality of life of millions of people. Within the 67th session of the Commission on the Legal and Social Status of Women, UN Women and the ILO have revealed data on the latest measurements regarding gender equality and its gaps.
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Digital Age and Gender Inequality: Great Challenges
The digital era and the accelerated changes experienced in what has been known as the fourth industrial revolution pose new challenges in almost all areas of life. In this regard, the United Nations has indicated that online spaces are fostering new scenarios to exercise violence against women while facilitating the anonymity and impunity of the aggressors. It also shows that there is discrimination in the technology sector. Finally, it points out that global regulations and laws are insufficient and clear to guarantee protection for vulnerable groups.
“Women are 18% less likely than men to own a smartphone and much less likely to access or use the Internet. Just last year, 259 million more men than women connected to the Internet. Only 28% of engineering graduates and 22% of artificial intelligence workers globally are women,” Sima Bahous, director of UN Women, explained in a press release. Likewise, it is estimated that only 1 in 5 artificial intelligence workers are women.
Thus, technological revolution changes occur so fast that regulations and adequate solutions have not been developed at this rate. Furthermore, depending on the context, digital tools have become a way of empowerment, independence, and knowledge. For example, they allow access to virtual education or contact support networks. On the other hand, digital skills are essential today to enter many labor markets. If women are lagging in all these fields, it is very complex to resolve these historical inequalities.
Job Gaps are Bigger than Previously Thought
The International Labor Organization ILO published a report entitled "New data on gender differences in the labor market." This indicates that 15% of women of working age and willing to do so are unemployed, compared to 10.5% of men. In this regard, the ILO has developed a new indicator called the employment gap, which includes all working-age people interested in finding a job. "By using this indicator and not the unemployment rate, more accentuated gender imbalances are revealed regarding access to a trade and working conditions."
Likewise, it indicates that there is still a "penalty for maternity," labor discrimination against women for being mothers. To this is added their extra work in care work. On the other hand, it is pointed out that the difference between the regions is enormous. "The gender disparity in low-income and lower-middle-income countries is also wider: women earn 29 and 33 cents on the dollar, respectively, for every dollar earned by men," the ILO notes. Women's incomes are between 56 and 58 cents in upper-middle and high-income countries. This shows that inequality is transversal.
On the other hand, the 67th session of the Commission on the Legal and Social Condition of Women (CSW67) will be held until March 17, the most crucial meeting of the United Nations to deal with issues related to equal rights. This year their motto will be: “Innovation and technological change, education in the digital age to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”