Today, March 8, DT Global celebrates International Women’s Day—an annual reminder that the push for women’s equality and equity is both important and unfinished. International Women’s Day also gives us a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of women and girls, and to remember that these accomplishments will fuel the ingenuity, dedication, and empowerment of future generations.
Digital technology connects and transforms human life. But the inverse is also true—the less we have access to the transformative power of digital technology, the more we are left out and left behind. This disparity plays out across every societal divide: rich and poor, rural and urban, and of course, male and female. Worldwide, men are 21% more likely to be online than women, with that number rising to 52% in the least developed countries. This lack of access is both a result of, and a contributor to, the economic, social, educational, and political inequality between genders.
If we improve digital access and tools for women and girls, can we begin to narrow the gap?
This spring, a group of DT Global staff across our Australia, Spain, and US offices are setting out to answer that question through an incubator challenge—launching on International Women’s Day—for women-owned social enterprises: Transforming Women’s Lives Through Digital Technology.
“In a pandemic and post-pandemic world, digital technology has been the most disruptive tool in every field,” says Tamara Amor, Corporate Social Responsibility Coordinator for DT Global. “Women have fewer possibilities in the digital world, and sometimes they're even made invisible, so we thought we could create a space that would support women-led projects that are making a difference through digital technology.”
This challenge pairs DT Global mentors with social enterprises to develop a concept that advances female economic or social empowerment through digital technology. All organizations will receive mentorship and access to ideas and networks throughout the challenge, and the winning organization will receive seed money to launch their idea.
Meet our challengers
Our teams hail from Venezuela, Spain, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Australia—and work with women in countries across the world. We sat down to learn more about our participating social enterprises and what it is that drives them to do the work they do.
Impact Hub Caracas is a community of entrepreneurs in Venezuela established to inspire other entrepreneurs, connect them with local and international communities of peers, and support them through mentorship and training services. Impact Hub Caracas is growing its Young Women Techpreneurs program, which will help young Venezuelan women (aged 17-25) launch their own tech businesses and gain financial independence by teaching entrepreneurial and STEM skills and creating a safe space for networking, dialogue, exchange, and learning among participants.
- How do you think your project can change the world for women and girls? The students of today are the professionals of tomorrow. Gender disparities in education especially affect Venezuelan girls who haven’t been able to acquire the necessary skills to prepare themselves for the future of work. Losing two years of schooling due to the pandemic and the increased digital divide can mean the difference between a bright future and a derailed life. To change this reality, alternative educational initiatives to bridge this gap—especially in young women—are a must.
- What made you realize you needed to work on building equality for women and girls? I never noticed that I, as a Systems Engineer, belonged to the scarce 3% of the women population in the world that studies tech careers. When I joined an international organization of young CEOs, I was one of the two women CEOs in a group of 90 males. I constantly discuss business, tech, politics, or economics on panels where there are no other women. I am sick of it. This needs to change. And I will continue working every single day of my life for that to happen.
ITWILLBE is a Spain-based social innovation NGO working in India. ITWILLBE helps to realize the full potential of India's self-help group system in the digital age by using digital resources to increase women’s employment and accelerate growth of vulnerable women-led businesses.
- How do you think your project can change the world for women and girls? Our project helps to accelerate access to financing for individual and collective initiatives, helps market their products in new larger markets, and even creates their own economy through their token, therefore increasing competitiveness and wealth for millions of women in the world.
- How do you think digital technology can promote equality? With technology, women and girls are on the way from a position of invisibility to one of power.
One Girl, an Australia-based NGO, works in Sierra Leone and Uganda to drive positive change for girls and their communities. One Girl is working through Girl Tok, a digital program for which it is co-designing relevant content about financial literacy, savings and loans groups, mobile money, access to markets, and more.
- How do you think your project can change the world for women and girls? Girl Tok changes the world for women and girls by working with them to harness the power of digital technology to break the barriers they face every day. Barriers like being locked out of financial security because they don't have a bank account and even if they can earn money have no power to decide how it is spent; locked out of managing their own sexual and reproductive health because they don't have information or services; locked out of opportunities because of harmful gender stereotypes. Girl Tok breaks all these barriers and provides a digital safe space for girls and young women to come together and grow their skills, knowledge and most importantly, their confidence and power to do all the things they want to do in life.
- If you could see one thing change for women and girls, what would it be? One thing that must change for women and girls is to come into their own power. To come together to understand that they are not valued less, worth less, can contribute less, or hold a lesser position in this world simply because they are a woman or a girl. We would see women and girls claiming the justice they deserve in every sphere of their lives—starting with claiming their right to an education. When a woman or girl is educated, everything changes.
Vaoala Vanilla, based in Samoa, is a sole proprietorship that has cultivated and sold vanilla for over 15 years, including through digital platforms. Vaoala Vanilla wants to build women-focused digital and e-commerce opportunities through training and mentorship opportunities that help Pacific female entrepreneurs become more confident in the e-commerce space.
- How do you think your project can change the world for women and girls? I would like to see my project be a source of inspiration and motivation for women and girls to rise up and harness the entrepreneur that is inside of them. Whether it will change the world, I don’t know, but I aim to make a small difference that will see more indigenous women and girls with e-commerce ventures around the Pacific.
- How do you think digital technology can promote equality? Digital technology does not discriminate against race, gender, or people living with a disability—it is open to everyone, anywhere and at any time—this is what equality in digital technology should look like. Discrimination is only seen when access to internet and digital technology is denied or limited by country leaders and policymakers.
Sere J Pacific Ltd. is a Papua New Guinea social enterprise that supports innovative small-scale, locally driven, entrepreneurial approaches to solve rural poverty. It is developing a “farmer’s portal” to create a one-stop shop for farmers and fishers, with a goal to meet information needs relating to agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, sale/storage of farmer produce, weather, current market price, e-commerce, and digital payments.
- How do you think your project can change the world for women and girls? When women and girls have access to digital tools, such as mobile phones and internet, they can speak out and campaign on issues that affect them through social media platforms, they can have access to information about their crop and its management, and they can have access to finance to increase their farm production. In addition, that can translate to a rise in the social economic development of the country.
- What made you realize you needed to work on building equality for women and girls? In the community where I work, boys and men have more access to technology compared to girls and women. Girls and women fear being discriminated against, so they stop using digital tools.
We are so excited to work with this group of dynamic women as they develop their concepts to bring equality for women and girls through digital innovations. “The fact that many women today have less access to digital technologies means that they are left behind where we need them the most,” says Louise Williams, Senior Director for Economic Growth at DT Global. “We believe this initiative will help women carry out digital projects in areas that are critical for other women.”