“If we are to invest in human resources, it should be done equally,” said Amina Mohamed, UN Deputy Secretary-General.
The former special advisor on the Sustainable Development Goals delivered an inspiring keynote at the UN Women’s Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC), a program responsible for investing in a better future for women and girls. The GICC program aims at building market awareness around impactful innovations developed by women, for women. It also analyzes the key barriers to women’s and girls’ advancement in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, in order to tackle these obstacles at an industry-wide level.
The inaugural meeting of the GICC was held on September 14 at the SAP Leonardo Centre in New York. The partnership between UN Women and 22 key representatives from academic, private, and nonprofit institutions aims at accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment in the technology and innovation market throughout the course of two years.
“Innovation and technology provide unprecedented opportunities to reach those who are most likely to be left out of the benefits of progress,” stated UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Women can now break out of isolation and create a market for their innovative ideas and products. This is an important asset for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it also brings broader benefits to society.”
“Through the Global Innovation Coalition for Change and similar partnerships, we can bring together the best of academic brain power and research, industry practical know-how, and civil society’s drive and reach to creatively disrupt the status quo,” she added.
The global industry leaders fostering the gender equality agenda include CISCO, Citi, Dell, Johnson & Johnson, and Facebook. The Coalition also has the support of academic institutions, such as MIT Solve and the New York Academy of Sciences, as well as the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship (South Africa), Ellevate Network, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Through this merging of public and private, the initiative hopes to catalyze change at every level.
Shaloo Garg, head of Oracle Global Innovation and its Startup Ecosystem, noted: “When we talk about girls in STEM, we really need to think beyond sending a girl to school and saying: ‘That’s it, I’ve done my job.”
“It’s really about breaking that barrier and going outside the classroom—making sure that a girl completes all levels of education and that she will be able to compete in the labor market,” she added.
The minority number of women in STEM-related fields limits how well industries can understand their needs. As a result of low female representation in the field, there is a lack of gender-disaggregated data. As just one example, reducing the gender gap in mobile phone ownership and usage could not only provide women with access to education, health, and financial services, but also unlock an estimated $170 billion (USD) in market opportunities for the mobile industry by 2020, according to research by GSMA.
“For girls in STEM, at a base level there should be three elements,” Garg said. “The first is that education really begins at home. You need to foster and create an environment where you encourage girls to think outside the box and solve basic life problems. The second bucket is schooling: sending them to schools and creating scholarships and mentoring programs. They should look up to someone and be inspired by them. And last but not the least, you should give them wings. Give them tools, guide them, and let them fly.”