On October 1st, the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning participated in the final Roundtable of the research project “Professional trajectories of women in ICT: employment dynamics and policy responses in Spain & the UK”, that has been carried out by the Gender & ICT research program of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3). This project has analized the gender differences and consequent exclusion of women in ICT, in an academic dimension as well as in a professional and employment scale. The research has focused on comparing the cases between UK and Spain, with the help and experience of professionals from both countries and the financial support of spanish Instituto de la Mujer.
The study has also followed and analysed examples from governmental Spanish initiative Plan Avanza, which had a line of action on promoting gender inclusive policies among women in ICTs. At this point, when the design and effectiveness of the different policies and plans have been studied, the investigation has reached and end and it is time to rise up conclusions to draw the pattern of change.
Juliet Webster, currently the Director of the study, stated at the roundtable: “The change has to be made in the grassroots of society. Women have to start thinking in a non sexist way. For sustainable gender policies we need women in all jobs”. She highlighted the empowerment that women need in order to get fair and equal chances. Also she pointed out that all women should be aware that “the engagement with ICTs needs to be over the life course”.
But as Webster remembers in one of her last articles at Open Thoughts Blog, there are still a lot of gender “stubborn inequalities”, and we just need to look at the data: “Throughout the EU, women earn on average 18% less than their male counterparts with equivalent qualifications and experience. Women also remain remarkably under-represented in top jobs, disappearing from career ladders as they ascend. They only represent 16.1% of board members of Fortune 500 companies”.
Cecilia Castaño, who served as former Director and now is advisor for the current one, explained that at this crucial point of the investigation all the efforts have to be focused on giving quality information to governments and administrations so they can lead the change: “Governments should include the gender agenda in their policies. There should not be distinctions according to the ideologies of the parties. Mobilisation of different stakeholders is vital and this includes ensuring high-level political support”.
Nevertheless, Castaño remembered that there “have to be many other society actors involved: gender agencies, educational institutions, parents associations, companies and foundations. They all have to work together to achieve goals and incentivise women to take a leading role for this purpose”.
Researchers agree that further action and study need to be done; most important of all work is to “tackle the right stakeholders”. Many countries have failed in achieving such policies but others have obtained success, like Sweden. There is where researchers look up to. Measures should be designed from the basis of women needs (from bottom to top) and they need to be sustainable, meaning that they have to be checked and evaluated continuously to achieve long term results. And most important of all: for the implementation of these policies continuity of funding is fundamental, that is when gender policies will have a true real spot in the political agenda.