On the 4th of August 2021, the GSMA co-hosted the first EQUALS EU Colloquium “Perceptions of Power: Championing Female Leadership in the Digital Age” as part of the global EQUALS EU Project Consortium. It brought together almost 90 representatives from across the mobile and tech industries, academia, civil society, international organisations and youth from across the globe. The aim was to dispel stereotypes and foster a gender-inclusive innovation ecosystem through targeted discussions and brainstorming around key traits and skills needed to empower women in the digital age. The event’s outcomes will be summarised in the report, with recommendations available later this year and will feed into future EQUALS-EU activities.
Perceptions of Power: Championing Female Leadership in the Digital Age event
The event was opened by Dr Anthony Giannoumis, Associate Professor at Oslo Metropolitan University and Belinda Exelby, Head of International Relations at the GSMA and Chair of the EQUALS Steering Committee. The EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age is the largest international platform bringing together the public and private sector to close the digital gender gap. In her opening remarks, Ms Exelby referred to the EQUALS pilot study led by the GSMA Perceptions of Power: Championing Female Leadership in the Digital Age, after which the event borrowed its title. The study explored how men and women in middle and senior management level positions, across the mobile and tech sectors, define leadership with a particular focus on the gender differences in leadership perception. The final report presents many recommendations for concrete actions public and private sector companies can undertake to encourage the advancement of women in digital economy leadership roles.
The event continued with a panel discussion on women’s leadership in information and communication technology moderated by Dr Nina Linde from the Institute of Economics of Latvian Academy of Sciences. Speakers included:
- Nur Sulyna Abdullah, Chief at Digital Knowledge Hub Department at the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA
- Dr Anthony Giannoumis, Associate Professor at Oslo Metropolitan University
- Mercy Njue, Founder of Botlab Kenya.
The discussion centred around the current state of the digital leadership gap in Europe and across the world, obstacles female leaders in the digital economy face, why championing female leadership in tech matters, and ways of fostering a more inclusive tech industry in which diverse leadership styles are welcome.
Following the panel debate, participants split into three different working groups to brainstorm further and reflect. The areas the groups focussed on were: the challenges and solutions to fostering digital rights, access to technology, and health/care provision, leveraging Science, Technology and Innovation skills for gender equity and building strategic communication skills to promote gender equity objectives.
Some of the key conclusions from the workshop discussions were:
- It is not enough to want to improve gender equity; it is necessary to build specific and measurable objectives within a clearly defined time frame.
- It is necessary to think about who is in a position to bring about the desired change to promote gender equity, and what their motivations and perceptions may be
- Behaviour change is more likely to occur when the key predictors of the behavior are identified, and information that targets underlying beliefs and obstacles to change s provided
- Focusing only on technical skill is not enough to reverse the downward trend in ICT. Providing adapted skills training for girls and women would let them feel more welcome in the ICT sector. Particularly, development of soft skills, effective communication, leadership skills as well as building self-confidence of the girls and women to navigate the barriers are significant.
The intersectionality between STEM and STEAM reveals the importance of an interdisciplinarity focus in developing digital technologies.
The outcomes of the working groups will serve to produce a brief report with recommendations. This report will feed into a series of hackathons, innovation camps and leadership boot camps aimed at empowering a select group of rising female digital entrepreneurs in the EU and Eastern Partnership countries.
Additionally, it will seek to create a support network for women in leadership across the digital economy and STEM fields in particular.
The EQUALS EU Project
The EQUALS EU Project aims to build capacity in gender-inclusive innovation in Europe and partner countries worldwide with an ambitious and value-driven agenda. It is an initiative funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Framework Programme and implemented as part of the EQUALS Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age. The EQUALS Global Partnership is the largest international platform that brings together public and private sectors to close the digital gender gap. The GSMA is one of the 19 EQUALS EU Project Consortium members and leads on a number of activities within the framework of the project which is due to conclude in December 2023. In 2022, the GSMA is due to host a hackathon aimed at developing new gender equity solutions for women and girls’ digital financial inclusion. The GSMA will also co-design three joint capacity building courses on women’s digital rights, transformational leadership, and STEM skills leveraging the recommendations and conclusions from the EQUALS EU Colloquium.