According to ITU studies, the global internet gender gap is now around 12.5%. In addition, women make up fewer than 30% of today's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professions. And the prospects for improvement are bleak: there are around half as many women pursuing STEM courses in postsecondary institutions as there are men.
The issues of safety and access are inextricably linked. We must both ensure that the gender gap is closed and that young women and girls have the freedom to learn, work, and communicate freely online.
Access is a global issue that necessitates local solutions
To begin with, there are socioeconomic limits. Low-income households in many regions of the world do not prioritise their daughters' education. One successful strategy to addressing this has been to provide scholarships for girls, as well as to facilitate access to e-learning through affordable internet access.
Then there are the cultural aspects. Not only do we need to raise awareness about STEM disciplines among girls, but also among their families and communities. This is critical for people from all walks of life.
The ramifications are far-reaching. Girls face larger challenges to earning potential and jobs later in life if they lack abilities for lifelong learning. They are more likely to have negative health outcomes and to be excluded from decisions that affect them, jeopardising their ability to create a better future for themselves and their communities.
Using digital learning to address the digital gender gap
To close the gender gap, developing and deploying digital learning platforms and content is critical. This should be done to promote inclusivity and equity in the use of technology for education, as well as ways to close digital divides, with a special focus on women.
Another important part of the digital gender divide is mentoring. Mentors should seek to inspire, motivate, and teach females all over the world to learn about technology and how to apply it to solve problems in their communities.
Inspiring young women to make a difference in the world
What do we stand to lose if we don't succeed? We are losing a generation, society is behind, and we are all living in a less diversified and rich digital world.
We can engage girls and their supporters today to join a movement that will make a genuine difference now and in the future by focusing on them.