Breaking Barriers: Empowering Women in the Tech Industry through Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

As we celebrate International Women's Day, it is crucial to acknowledge the ongoing economic, social, and technological obstacles that women continue to encounter. Despite the significant progress that our society has achieved, gender disparities still persist. In particular, if we look at the tech industry :

Women in ICT jobs, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), are still underrepresented in Europe, with women making up only 17% of the ICT workforce in the European Union (EU). This is concerning given that the ICT sector is growing rapidly and is predicted to generate more jobs in the future. With only 14% of women holding such positions, the lack of diversity can lead to a lack of innovation and creativity in ICT and can limit the sector's ability to address the needs and preferences of diverse user groups. Another research conducted by UN Women highlighted that women makeup up only 22% of AI workers globally and 44,2% of AI systems present gender bias.


How are we breaking down those bias?

In Europe, there are several initiatives and programs in place aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in ICT, including in the field of AI. For example, the European Commission has launched the Women in Digital Scoreboard initiative, which aims to increase the number of women working in digital and to reduce the gender gap in this sector. Additionally, there are various organisations and networks that focus on promoting women skills and competences in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This is the case of European Schoolnet, who looks at STEM in education, as a top priority to encourage schools to attract girls to theses disciplines and careers and equip them from an early age with the necessary digital skills for the future, through various European projects and partnerships. 

European Schoolnet plays a crucial role in promoting new initiatives that encourage and support girls and women to pursue ICT-related careers, provide training and resources to educators on how to create an inclusive learning environment, and collaborate with policymakers, ministries of education and industry leaders to promote gender diversity in the workforce. Recently, the network of Ministries of Education via the European Schoolnet Academy launched the Code Week MOOC "Unlocking the Power of AI in Education". This MOOC offers free online courses for teachers to develop their coding and programming skills and to learn how to teach coding to their pupils. By increasing the number of teachers with coding skills, more students, including girls, will have the opportunity to learn coding and become interested in ICT careers. In addition, the Code Week MOOC also offers specific courses on topics such as promoting diversity in coding and tackling gender imbalance in STEM education, which can help raise awareness and encourage action to create a more inclusive and diverse ICT sector.


Moreover, the European Commission's Digital Skills Job Platform  aims to connect job seekers with employers in the field of digital skills, including coding and data science. It provides information on the latest digital skills trends and job opportunities, as well as advice and guidance for job seekers. By using the platform, women and girls can find opportunities in the ICT sector and gain the skills necessary to succeed in these jobs. Additionally, employers can use the platform to reach a more diverse pool of candidates and create a more inclusive workplace. The project has recently launched entries for the European Digital Skills Awards 2023. The Awards aim to recognise projects and initiatives that contribute to bridging the digital divide in 5 separate categories, one of which is "Women in ICT Careers".

European Schoolnet also supports initiatives such as the ALL DIGITAL Weeks campaign to encourage all citizens without discrimination to enhance their skills. This campaign aims to demonstrate the need to equip all European citizens with the digital tools and skills they need for education, work and social inclusion.


What can we do to achieve equality and address gender gap in ICT?

There are several potential solutions to address the gender gap in ICT jobs, especially in fields like AI, including encouraging girls and young women to pursue STEM education and careers by offering mentorship programs and training opportunities, addressing gender bias and discrimination in recruitment, providing workplace flexibility and support for work-life balance, promoting a culture of inclusion and diversity within organisations, and increasing awareness and visibility of successful women in ICT roles to inspire and encourage more women to pursue careers in these fields.

These endeavours whether they are made at the international level, national level, in your classrooms or in your homes are a step towards a more diverse and inclusive future in our society.