The UN's Women's Entrepreneurship Accelerator celebrates three years with Digital Innovation Challenge
The UN accelerator celebrated its third anniversary with the launch of a new challenge for women start-ups.
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This year, the UN's Women Entrepreneurship Accelerator (WEA) celebrated its third year in existence at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) by launching its Digital Innovation Challenge for women start-ups around the world.
Deborah Gibbins, chief operating officer at Mary Kay — one of the partners of WEA — pointed out:
While the pivot to digital provides a unique window of opportunity for women to innovate and scale their businesses, the digital acceleration can also perpetuate inequalities.
“The theme of innovation and technology from a gender perspective, present[s] a unique opportunity to explore the gendered impacts of innovation and technology with recommendations that will set a course for a more inclusive and equitable digital economy,” said WEA.
Organized alongside the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Geneva with a call to the other five UN partners, WEA's third anniversary also highlighted the need to invest in women entrepreneurs through digital technology to expand their businesses.
The digital revolution offers enormous opportunities to improve the economic situation of women, and it facilitates access to knowledge and international markets that allows them to engage with a wider network. The event also warned of the risks posed by digital transformation of perpetuating existing patterns of gender inequality.
“With a mission to address the barriers faced by women entrepreneurs to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), WEA is working to create an enabling digital innovation eco-system for women entrepreneurs to ensure countries reap the benefits of the digital transformation underway to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable world,” said WEA.
Thank you to the Grand Jury members who each provided their unique insights to the #WEA Digital Innovation Challenge. They identified 10 innovative digital solutions to create a more inclusive digital ecosystem for women-owned and led start-ups. #RediscoverInnovation #PowerOn pic.twitter.com/MCXqzbpYyL— Women's Entrepreneurship Accelerator (@WE_Accelerator) March 15, 2023
Women in the digital world — by the data
WEA also highlighted the following figures on gender inclusion in the digital universe:
- 37% of women in the world do not have access to the internet.
- By 2050, 75% of jobs will be related to STEM areas.
- Today, women hold just 22% of positions working in artificial intelligence and only one in three global researchers are women.
- Only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science are women.
- Women’s exclusion from the digital world has shaved $1 trillion from the gross domestic product of low-and middle-income countries in the last decade.
The main conclusions were as follows:
- Existing innovation and start-up eco-systems greatly lack gender diversity and are characterized by an uneven distribution of opportunity and financial resources.
- Women entrepreneurs are consistently faced with a lack of capital and investment to scale their businesses, limited access to connectivity and to information and communication technologies (ICTs), and to opportunities to learn the critical skills necessary to compete in the digital economy.
- Digital technologies, platforms and tools can also reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and discriminate against women and girls, unless they are designed to be safe, inclusive and accessible from the outset. For example, gender biases found in data sets and coded in AI algorithm products may lead to systems and services that replicate patterns of discrimination.
- Women and girls, and especially those who are at greater risk for multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, are also the primary targets of online violence and abuse, which push them out of public participation, conversations and digital spaces more broadly. These are just some of the pressing challenges that call for gender-inclusive solutions in the digital age.