Excellencies, Ambassadors, distinguished participants,
Ambassadors for a Day from all over Thailand,
A very warm welcome to you all on this special day.
We have come together on this International Women’s Day to celebrate the power and prowess of women to harness the benefits of innovation and technological change and to explore how we can work together to accelerate progress and achieve gender equality in the digital age.
We see the benefits of technology and innovation accelerate around us, from the conveniences of online shopping to the efficiencies created by artificial intelligence.
Our world becomes more interconnected by the day, and technology allows us to get closer to each other, communicate faster and learn more quickly of news from around the world.
Yet, the distance between the haves and have-nots continues to increase, and we see - through data – how the socio-economic gaps widen and deepen by the day, leaving the most vulnerable parts of our populations, especially women and girls, behind.
This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” asks us to consider how we can make the best use of technology and innovation to ensure that we move forward in a more inclusive and equitable manner, keeping in mind the hurdles many women and girls face in realizing their full potential.
Our digital spaces are not yet gender-neutral and gender-inclusive.
Access to the benefits of technological innovations has been unequal across the Asia-Pacific region. In low- and middle-income countries, women are 20 per cent less likely than men to own a smartphone or to use the Internet on a mobile device.
The challenges women and girls face in the digital age are many and intersecting. Let me highlight just a few of them:
- Deeply entrenched gender biases and discriminatory social norms divert scarce resources towards men and boys having priority access to mobile phones and data.
- Education systems perpetuate stereotypes, pushing girls away from studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) subjects. Women are also less likely to work in STEM sectors, contributing to innovations failing to consider women’s unique needs in their designs.
- The large and growing gender digital divide prevents the region from benefiting from untapped talent in women and girls.
To overcome these challenges, we must take immediate and decisive actions to provide more robust and targeted policy support.
We need policies aimed at increasing access by women and girls to technology and innovation.
It’s encouraging to see new initiatives that aim to upgrade digital infrastructure and services.
We must also build more inclusive educational systems to increase female representation in STEM-related studies.
Education systems can and should integrate a gendered lens into all subjects and implement targeted programs to support girls’ learning needs in STEM.
And we should support women entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses through the use of technology.
Women entrepreneurs play a key role in developing economies and increasing their access to digital innovations will lead to more sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
We will hear more from women leaders on the panel today who will share their inspiring stories in making a difference and creating a level playing field for women in the world of technology.
Dear colleagues and participants,
If we pair the untapped potential of women and girls, we will take a giant step towards rectifying many of the inequalities and injustices created by generations past.
Women have the know-how to harness technology and innovation. Given equal opportunities, they will flourish and contribute to creative solutions to tackle the world’s multi-faceted challenges.
Before closing, I would like to thank UN-Women for their close partnership in co-organizing this regional commemoration.
I would also like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Women Ambassadors Group and the participating United Nations entities for their efforts in organizing once again the “Ambassador for a Day” initiative.
On this International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our shared commitment to “leaving no one behind” and accelerating our efforts towards building a more secure, accessible, inclusive and equitable digital world for all of us and for women and girls in particular.