BRUSSELS – This year, International Women’s Day is focused on “inspiring change” and challenging the status quo to achieve gender equity worldwide. The sad reality is that, despite significant social, political, and economic progress, women still face major personal and professional obstacles in developed and developing countries alike. This state of affairs does not hurt only women; it undermines everyone’s prospects.
Consider the information and communications technology sector, which is critical to the future competitiveness of major economies – particularly Europe’s. With application-software development alone capable of employing 4.8 million people and contributing €63 billion ($87 billion) to the European Union’s economy by 2018, enabling women to contribute to the ICT sector’s development is a matter of common sense.
The good news is that the European Commission seems to recognize this imperative. Having identified technological progress as one of the most important sources of growth and employment, the Commission has specified 101 policy measures – including programs aimed at increasing women’s participation in the ICT workforce – to deliver sustainable GDP growth through digital technologies.
But much more must be done. Despite stubbornly high unemployment levels across Europe – more than 10% of the working-age population and over 20% of young people remain unemployed, according to Eurostat – up to a half-million vacancies are expected in the technology sector by next year.