faculty & experts
04 October 2021

Perceptions of Power: Closing the Gender Gap in the Digital Sphere

The EQUALS-EU inaugural colloquium “Perceptions of Power”, held virtually on 4 August 2021 and in partnership with the Graduate Institute’s Gender Centre, focused on the theme of “Championing Female Leadership in the Digital Age”. The event brought together key figures from the realms of academia, civil society and industry to collaboratively investigate the challenges impeding the successful achievement of gender equity in the digital age. 

Hurdles to access, affordability, lack of education, as well as inherent biases and sociocultural norms curtail women and girls’ ability to benefit from the opportunities offered by the digital transformation. Adding to this list of ills, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened pathways to gender equity, going so far as to “reverse all the progress that has been made on gender equality.” Indeed, as the SDG Report 2020 notes, “women are…bearing the heaviest brunt of the pandemic’s effects”.

“Technology has such an influence on everything today” that we must try “our best to ensure that how it is shaped and used is managed for the benefit of all, reminded Nur Sulyna Abdullah, Chief, Digital Knowledge Hub Department at the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), during the event’s opening panel discussion. For this to happen, women have to be able to “contribute, share their perspectives, participate in decision-making” and “have an equal role in designing digital technologies”.

Claire Somerville, Executive Director of the Gender Centre and Lecturer at the Graduate Institute, served as an expert in the “Women’s Digital Rights in Healthcare” workshop, which tabled discussions particularly pertinent in the COVID-19 age. Furthermore, Dr Somerville is also co-Investigator on the EQUALS-EU partnership for the Graduate Institute, leading its contributions to EQUALS-EU.

In conjunction with its many partners, the EQUALS-EU regional partnership will co-design and implement a collaborative, grass-roots-centric, powerful agenda by which to advance and promote gender equity in social innovation, in the digital age. Under the umbrella of this new and promising EQUALS-EU partnership - building on the Institute's wider commitment to the EQUALS Global Partnership - a suite of new and exciting activities are set to launch at the Graduate Institute. 

As Dr Anthony Giannoumis noted at the close of the Colloquium, “this is not a women’s issue, this is a human issue” and as much as “we are all suffering under the same misogynistic values...we can all unburden ourselves by championing gender equality.” 

The EQUALS-EU project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.