By Sanja Kekic, CRISC, EMBA, OIR, OIRJS, President of the ISACA Belgrade Chapter
International Women's Day is celebrated every year to honor women, their accomplishments in all possible areas of life, and their right to equality and respect.
This day is marked by various artistic performances, concerts, marches, speeches and conferences all over the world, and each of these events is equally unique and inspirational.
Girls, grandmothers, moms, sisters, aunts—every woman feels empowered on International Women’s day, but, in reality, both women and men should feel this way every day.
Where It All Began
It is actually hard to say when International Women’s Day was first celebrated, but, allegedly, its foundation is rooted in 1908, when more than 15,000 women marched in New York, New York, USA, demanding rights to vote, to better pay, and to shortened working hours.
A year later, on 28 February 1909, women came together to discuss International Women’s Day in the United States and, in 1910, Clara Zetkin, head of the Women’s Office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, made a proposal to launch International Women’s Day globally.
She suggested that each country celebrate women one day a year in order to make it easier for them to achieve all of their unique rights.
Later, at an International Socialist Women’s Conferences attended by more than 100 women from 17 countries, her proposal was accepted and International Women’s Day was formed. On 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time. Since 1913, however, it was decided that the date of International Women’s Day would be 8 March globally, and it has been celebrated as such ever since. In 1975 the day was formally recognized by the United Nations.
Unfortunately, the original idea of achieving full gender equality for all women around the world is still not fully understood or realized. This can be seen clearly through the fact that inequality of wages between men and women still exists in many countries, and women are still not equally represented in politics or business. Data illustrate that women remain oppressed both in education and health, and violence toward women also remains an issue. According to World Economic Forum data, this gender equality gap will not be closed until 2186.
As a result, each year, women around the world reunify their own strengths and illustrate both loudly and clearly that present inequalities should finally be recognized and changed, while also simultaneously celebrating the successes of many women who have overcome these current barriers.
The Current State of Women in ICT and Digital Environment in Europe
In 2018, the European Commission published a “Study on Women in the Digital Age” that shows that greater participation of women in the digital sector could increase general domestic product (GDP) in the European Union (EU) by 16 billion Euros a year.
The aim of this study was to recognize crucial factors and movements of women’s involvement in information and communication technology (ICT) and to evaluate the dynamics and research the practices that make it possible for women to participate in the digital world.
Also, this study shows that in the EU 57% of graduates in tertiary education are women, but unfortunately only 24.9% of them graduate in ICT-related areas, and a small number of them enter the ICT-related sector where are only 13% of them hold digital occupations (compared to 15% in 2011).
The Current State of Women in ICT and Digital Environment Globally
If we look at global figures, they show that women’s representation in the ICT and digital sector has not improved significantly. Powerful unconscious biases about what is proper and perceived traditional gender roles form the basis for why women are underrepresented in ICT and the digital environment, which is indicated by both data and qualitative analysis. Therefore, to increase these unconscious biases and create an ICT and digital environment more acceptable for women, it should begin with changes at the micro level by highlighting the role models and rising voice through various initiatives such as ISACA’s SheLeadsTech program.
“If existing biases are not addressed, rapid economic advances achieved by digital transformation will not take into account the existing gender gap in the sector which will amplify and possibly perpetuate gender stereotypes.” This is why celebrating women’s strength, their fight for equality and their progress each year on International Women’s Day is integral to establishing a level playing field for women in ICT and all other industries.