Women can empower themselves through technology
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which were founded on the principle of “leaving no-one behind”, mean we need to make transformative shifts as well as innovative solutions to move beyond structural barriers to sustainable development.
Innovation and technology provide unparalleled opportunities to reach those who are the most likely to be left behind — and to help women ensure that they are not left behind.
My first brush with the transformative nature of technology was when I worked for a logistics and parcel distribution industry company in the UK. Working there was a game-changer for me, as they implemented track-and-trace technology, which allowed people to schedule deliveries. Imagine knowing your parcel won’t arrive while you are dashing out of the office to do the school run?
Technology has come a long way since 2000; now we carry amazing tools in our pockets, handbags, and laptop bags. In fact, as we often hear, the ubiquitous smartphone is millions of times more powerful than the computers that guided Apollo 11 to the moon.
This puts women in charge of so much more. Long gone now are the days when women would hand over a pay cheque to their husbands. There are many things that women can do today to accelerate their advancement and empowerment using technology. Now, thanks to banking apps, we have control over our money: when to spend, when to invest, and can even analyse spending and decide if it’s necessary to tighten our belts.
Tech opens up a world of information that women can use to help defeat stereotypes. Information can help young women decide to study a career that is, stereotypically, not one they would choose, such as engineering.
We can also use technology to form groups to discuss, and combat, socioeconomic issues that hinder progress. WhatsApp groups can be a rallying place, a safe zone in which to share stories, and a starting point for crowdfunding to fight gender-based violence, for example. Crowdfunding is another way that tech can be used to join women together in solidarity.
For those unacquainted with technology, working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown would bring additional stress. Those who were comfortable with technology, who knew how to operate devices and collaborate with others using technology, found it easier to adapt to the changes that came about with the pandemic.
Social distancing meant that as people could not leave their homes, they took to technology to help fill their time, with some learning new skills and others taking up hobbies again, searching YouTube for recipes or the latest on gardening. Many people used technology to research the affect of lockdown on their wellbeing, their teams and families.
Online educational platforms deliver free or low-cost courses teaching skills such as coding, PowerPoint skills, graphic design, and many more, helping women to upskill themselves and be future fit for a digital era. Education is key to enabling women to control their lives and avoid the trap of patriarchy.
Where I believe technology can have the most important affect is for women in rural areas, where female-led households are the norm, and women are often primary caregivers. They would be able to cut down on travel costs to the shops and health facilities if they had access to technologies that enabled them to bank and shop online, and consult virtually with a doctor or nurse. Apps can also monitor health vital statistics such as blood pressure and heartbeats, and make sure that medication is being taken as and when it should be.
In the workplace, women in leadership can improve their competitiveness and become more efficient by driving the adoption of technology and championing its use among their teams. This will strengthen the quality of conversation about technology, which is often a male-dominated field, and enable them to lead confidently and be role models to other young women in the organisation. It’s time for women to defy the stereotype that they are not technology savvy.
Increased use of technology in the workplace will also spill into the home environment, where women, who mostly manage the home, can use technology to lessen the burden of running the household, freeing them up to concentrate on other activities such as learning a new hobby online.
Technology has placed the power of self-advancement and empowerment squarely in the hands of everyone, including women; let’s take the opportunity to seize the magic it delivers from an empowerment perspective.
- Maubane is group executive of marketing at Altron