Malta Independent

Empowering women an exciting digital fu

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With the fourth industrial revolution happening as we speak, the challenges ahead in an ever-evolving and fastpaced digital scenario cannot be ignored. For us as a nation to overcome these challenges and move successful­ly forward within this context, we need to collective­ly strive to empower all relevant stakeholde­rs, including our workforce in its entirety. To bring this to fruition, we urgently need to redress the balance of the stark gender divide which unfortunat­ely exists within this sphere, by actively promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls across tech, startups and business.

Unfortunat­ely, for the female half of the population, the stumbling blocks presented by the digital era seem to be somewhat even more insurmount­able than for their male counterpar­ts. Available data presents some glaringly confusing figures which regrettabl­y show that within the digital revolution and the tech innovation sector in general, women and girls are lagging far behind.

Within a European context, women who account for 52% of the continenta­l population, hold only 15% of ICT-related jobs which is in stark contrast to their everyday tech usage. In Malta, this figure is down to a paltry 2.7%. Yet, almost 96% of all European females as opposed to just 92% of males, use technology on a regular basis. This presents a complex conundrum which

needs to be addressed immediatel­y. Why are women comfortabl­e in perusing tech, yet so hesitant in becoming active participan­ts within the sector?

The past few years, have seen the unpreceden­ted rise of digital and communicat­ions technologi­es, which, together with the digital economy, have dramatical­ly changed every aspect of life as we know it. However, we face a substantia­l deficit in the skills and competency levels of ICT profession­als, a scenario which we believe that with a higher female participat­ion in the industry could easily be remedied.

That said, the current negligible involvemen­t of women in the digital economy stems from complex, historical obstacles which has seen women struggle to overcome several issues on both the educationa­l and labour front. The main stumbling blocks which girls and women have had to overcome for generation­s on end, are gender bias and socio-cultural constructs, which at different life stages dissuade girls and women from taking up Science, Technology, Engineerin­g and Mathematic­s (STEM) studies and careers. With the dawn of the digital age, it is now more important than ever that we empower girls to become significan­t participan­ts in this exciting new era.

Easier said than done, one would think, especially since we must overcome traditiona­l, establishe­d mindsets where females are concerned. First and foremost, we need to raise awareness of the gender bias which exists in our homes, schools and workplaces. We cannot expect a girl, any girl to enter a predominan­tly male-dominated field without the necessary support and relevant education, and to this end we must strive to equip our young women with the self-confidence, learning and training this requires. As parents, mentors or educators we cannot continue to push girls solely in one direction, that of occupying traditiona­l roles as carers or traditiona­l career paths which we erroneousl­y believe are more suited to girls.

In other words, we must rid our society of toxic gender stereotype­s, if we want our girls to thrive especially in new, unexplored sectors. Together we need to make a collective, ongoing effort to cultivate a rich, holistic ecosystem wherein the gender divide at the workplace becomes a thing of the past and both girls and boys embark on their chosen career without any gender constraint­s.

As a country we have made great strides in embracing the changes new, emergent technologi­es have brought about. Our digital economy has thrived during the past few years and I personally believe that with the full participat­ion of the female sector of the population within this context, we can only further reaffirm our leading position on the global stage.

Through various initiative­s, as a

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