The Technology Gender Gap and the Third World

Most of the discussion about women and technology has centered on first world and developed countries. These conversations usually involve statistics about how women are underrepresented in tech industry jobs, or how not as many women are majoring in computer science as they were 30 years ago.[1] While this is valuable discussion and a change does need to occur, there are still thousands, if not millions, of women who still do not even have access to technology, let alone the ability to work in the industry, especially in poor countries. As Wendy Boswell, a programmer from Intel, pointed out on the company blog: “Enabling Internet access for more women and girls in developing countries promises immediate, and immense, benefits.” [2]

Corinne Woods, the global director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign points out that “in low and middle income countries, a woman is 21 percent less likely than a man to own a mobile phone” and that this results in disempowerment of women in less developed countries. [3] Women are also 25-45% less likely than men to be online in developing countries, depending on the area.[4] Clearly, women in developing countries have difficulty just gaining access to technologies such as the Internet and cell phones. As Boswell points out, if Internet access was made available in these countries, there would be “another 600 million women online.”[5] While this may not directly lead to more women in coding right away, if women in these areas at least become more familiar with technology and the opportunities it provides, more women may be willing to get into coding and other related computer science jobs.

Intel has started a program called “She Will Connect” with this exact idea in mind. This program will focus on teaching girls and young women in underdeveloped countries how to navigate the Internet and hopefully get them interested in coding. [6] By targeting this large population of women who do not even have access to the Internet, it can become very easy to increase the percentage of women who hold computing and various other tech jobs. If more tech companies follow in Intel’s footsteps and give women in underdeveloped countries the access to and knowledge of technology they need, the technology gender gap will begin to close.

[1] Kelly, Maura (2012). “A Girl in a Tech World.” Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maura-kelly/a-girl-in-a-tech-world-an_b_1443841.html

[2] Boswell, Wendy (2013). “Closing the Technology Gender Gap with ‘She Will Connect.’” Intel Developer Zone Blogs. https://software.intel.com/en-us/blogs/2013/11/01/closing-the-technology-gender-gap-with-she-will-connect

[3] Woods, Corinne (2014). “How Technology Widens the Gender Gap.” Reuters. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/03/21/how-technology-widens-the-gender-gap/

[4] Antonio, Amy and David Tuffley (2014). “Digital Literacy in the Developing World: A Gender Gap.” The Conversation. http://theconversation.com/digital-literacy-in-the-developing-world-a-gender-gap-28650

[5] Boswell.

[6] Boswell.

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