Taking Gender into Account: Women in the Information Society

By Tarasiewicz, Malgorzata | UN Chronicle, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Taking Gender into Account: Women in the Information Society


Tarasiewicz, Malgorzata, UN Chronicle


Historically, women have been left behind in the access to new opportunities and are second-class citizens in the process of empowerment brought by the digital era. The new information and communication technologies (ICTs), which could offer equal chances to their users, reflect the same inequality that has been present for decades between women and men.

There is a growing digital divide between the rich and the impoverished, between the developed and developing countries, and between countries with sound economies and those in transition. Since women constitute the majority of the poor in the world, this divide becomes even more gender-based Besides the difficulty of access to hardware and software, women are rarely in decision-making positions in technology, and because of gender stereotypes, men dominate in management.

It is not exclusively for the benefit of women to take gender-justice into account when talking about access in the information society. For decades, policies have been designed to strengthen poor countries economically and democratically. It has been proven that gender perspectives have to be built into policies and actions in order to make them just and efficient tools for social change; nevertheless, the gender aspect in ICT development is often missing. ICTs have become a powerful and widespread tool for social development. "An equitable information society needs to be based on sustainable economic and social development and gender justice. It cannot be achieved solely through market forces". (1) The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) process creates a possibility to secure gender perspectives in ICT policies.

Some recommendations relevant to the access of women to ICT have been made numerous times at UN conferences, many referring to economic and social empowerment. Women should decide for themselves how to use technology for their empowerment, should gain equal access to new employment opportunities and should have more decision-making positions in information technology. The use of ICT as an effective tool in distributing information and advocating gender equality should be promoted. Similar recommendations arise from the European Union's eEurope 2005 Action Plan, whose objective, among other things, is to give everyone the opportunity to participate in the global information society. What political will could trigger actions to attract women to make use of the Internet, increase the number of Internet access points with special focus on attracting women (e.

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