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ICTs and Gender-Evidence from OECD and Non-OECD Countries

Chair:  Andrew Morrison, Lead Economist, Gender and Development Group, World Bank

Opening Remarks:  Philippe Dongier, Sector Manager, GICT, World Bank

 Pierre Montagnier with Desiree van Welsum, Economist, Information, Computer and Communications Policy Division, Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, OECD

Graham Vickery, the Director for Computer and Communications, Policy Division at OECD

  Dominique Lallement, Consultant, FEU, World Bank

This video conference seminar shared and discussed a 2006 paper prepared by OECD on the gender distribution of ICTs and ICT-related employment in OECD countries, including some non-OECD countries.

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The video conference seminar presented and discussed a 2006 exploratory study paper prepared by OECD on the gender distribution of ICTs and ICT-related employment in OECD countries, including some non-OECD countries. 

Philippe Dongier made opening remarks about the Bank Global ICT Department’s three focus areas:  e-government, access to ICT infrastructure, IT-enabled services, and suggested that the Bank and OECD should collaborate closely on regional workshops, research, projects centered on the theme of ICT-enabled industries and how to set up a policy framework that would include women in the ICT sector.

OECD Study Presentation

Desiree Van Welsum  discussed the study design and explained that it did not collect new data, but did a statistical review of existing data.  Pierre Montagnier explained that the study was prepared as part of the follow upon the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society [WSIS] Thematic Meeting on the “Economic and Social Impact of ICTs” that was organized by OECD, ILO, and UNCTAD in January 2005.  The gender divide combined with the ICT divide can take many different forms and can be measured from many different angles. This particular paper focuses on the gender gap from the following three angles:

  • ICT employment patterns (ICT using occupations and ICT related occupations)
  • ICT related education and training, and
  • Access to and use of computers and Internet.

The study’s identified important trends, including:

  • In Internet activities, downloading software is more male activity while seeking health
    information on injury, disease or nutrition is more female activity.  Sending and receiving e-mail is a very common activity for women.

  • In Korea, one of the most connected countries in the world, the share of women researchers is only 10%.  Since 2002, the gender gap in Internet usage rate increased significantly in the older age category (50-60), but it is rapidly closing in the younger generation (6-19 years, 20’s and 30’s).  Perhaps the gender gap will disappear in the next ten years.

  • Among ICT-using occupations, women tend to have a much higher share of clerical occupations and a lower share of scientific and professional jobs.  The share of women in ICT-using occupations in OECD countries indicates a disparity of between 40-60%.

  • The share of women in the ICT industry (producing ICTs) is low, particularly in manufacturing industry and in computer & service industry.

  • Women’s low share of ICT specialists’ jobs has not increased since 1998.  In 2005, only 25% of all software engineers in the US were women.  On the other hand, the number of women who have relative specialization in computing in Mexico is higher than other countries.

Pierre Montagnier stressed the need to pay attention and conduct more in-depth analysis of gender differences in ICT occupations, education, access & use, both in terms of efficiency and equity.  We also need to develop an inclusive legal and regulatory framework for giving equal rights to women (e.g., to Internet accounts) in order to close the gap in ICT-related employment and education & training.  This calls for creating leaders and role models and having facilitators (intermediaries and mediators) to create and optimize capacity.

Discussant’s Comments :

Dominique Lallement stated that ICTs play a very significant role in the implementation of the World Bank Gender Action Plan and in achieving the goal for women’s economic empowerment (infrastructure services such as mobile phones facilitate the access to financial markets).   Yet, women’s’ economic empowerment depends on the type of ICTs.  The OECD study focused on Internet industry vs. telephony, but women benefit from telephony faster in terms of economic empowerment.  For example, women’s income in India has increased through telephony as they are getting information on market price on onions and tomatoes.  Telephony also requires less costly training.  Because we have to reach so many people who can be empowered by ICTs, we have to think about “getting a greater bang for the buck.” 

Lallement also called for a follow up study to provide statistical information on developing countries.  Developing systematic information on women’s economic empowerment depends on the types of ICTs services.  ICTs can resolve some of the access to market issues by, for example, helping to develop home businesses.  ICT-enabled women can get access to credit virtually, while women showing up at a bank may have difficulty in getting appointments, as we have seen in Bangladesh.

OECD’s Graham Vickery responded that advanced mobile telephones are currently much more capable of all sorts of things such as WIFI and have access capability for Internet.  We have to think about new applications from the mobility and Internet angles because applications are moving in that direction.

After the presentation, an active discussion followed between the presenters in Paris and the audience in Washington.  At the end, Andrew Morrison drew conclusions from comments and Q&A that are
  • The high level of gender equality in terms of computer courses taken and in the index of access to computer education is striking.  However, in terms of labor force participation, increased equality of education does not automatically translate into equality of opportunities of employment.  

  • As a part of the World Bank Gender Action Plan, we are developing a white paper on Gender and Infrastructure, which will have a section on ICTs.  Perhaps the paper could reflect the discussion at this seminar.  This discussion also calls for best practice studies on what works, for example, low cost Internet access in Korea or Mexico because of the network of local access points.

  • We should particularly look at what is working in closing the gender gap.  In terms of cost benefit of types of ICT in providing access to market and credit (telephony vs other access), the answers may differ depending on such factors as rural vs. urban, or middle-income vs. low-income country.

  • Finding out the role of ICTs in access to markets, credit, technology, and entrepreneurship calls for case studies about the links between women’s ICT access and productivity/market access.

  • Finally, this seminar came up with a concrete form of partnership between two institutions in terms of the regional workshops that the World Bank is developing.

Related Links at OECD:   

ICTs and gender March 29, 2007
This report provides an overview of the gender distribution of ICT and ICT-related employment in OECD countries, and compares these to the gender distribution of total employment. Participation in ICT related education and training, and differences in ICT access and use by gender are also shown.

The work on ICT-enabled globalisation of services and offshoring:

The work on ICT-using employment:

Other Related Links:

Gender Equality as Smart Economics: A World Bank Gender Action Plan

Women in Technology (WIT)
Women in Technology (WIT) is an NGO dedicated to offering women in all levels of the technology industry a wide range of professional development and networking opportunities. One of the organization’s main goals is to create a forum where women in technology can be recognized and promoted as role models.