Empowering women in the new technology workspace

ORF panel

A new workplace, many new conversations. How is the working culture changing for women? What role is technology playing here? How have entrepreneurial ecosystems world over changed things for them? A special discussion put the spotlight on Unleashing Opportunities for women in India and Africa reflecting on common objectives and learnings. Organised by ORF in partnership with UK AID and SheThePeople, it brought together a cross section of strong voices to recalibrate our approach towards making the work place more gender balanced.

Sabina Dewan, President and Executive Director Just Jobs Network, observed that India has only 14% business owners who are women. The idea was to look at the new increasingly digital world, where the physical workplace is not the only arena, an value creation has shifted from labour to knowledge.  With the result a new workplace has emerged, and there is need to address how technology will impact gender relationsSairee Chahal, Founder of Sheroes India shared how the change in technology was impacting everyone to move faster, including the women. “Access to online real estate is the real game changer for women of all arenas,” she asserted.

Mahima Kaul, Head of Public Policy for Twitter India, spoke from personal experience when she said that in the last decade technology has helped her a variety of jobs, not just around the country but also around the world. But she also highlighted the issue of data privacy which might create an engagement issue for women. Women should be allowed to make their own choices and the enhancement of women’s economic status in no way decreases men’s,” observed Martha Alade, Founder of Women in Technology in Nigeria.

Some of the key highlights that emerged are as follows:

– Tech offers transformative opportunities to countries like India and in Africa.

– Gender parity issues persist, whether it is men dominating cash crops in Nigeria or owning businesses from Africa to India

– There need to be ways to cancel out a skill bias, as there are constant changes in tech.

-Women tend to cite lack of money, skills or lack of tech know how, even privacy as an excuse not to be online.

Adeshola Komolafe, CEO Media Insight and Oak TV, Nigeria pointed out that the stories of gender inequality and patriarchal mind-sets needed to be told and shared, so make more people aware. She also observed that there are patriarchal forces and people who still want to see “women in the kitchen”.