New global initiative to close gender gap in science and technology

Global women leaders in tech participate in IGNITE


San Francisco, CA — To kick off its new Technology Initiative, Global Fund for Women today launched IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology, an online campaign and multimedia project which explores the roles of science and technology in advancing women’s human rights. IGNITE features leading technologists, thought leaders, innovators, human rights activists and creators around the world, engaging partners in the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The IGNITE project is one part of a Technology Initiative that will call on Governments, funders and corporations to invest in addressing the global gap between men and women in accessing, shaping, and leading science and technology, in order to exponentially increase progress on equality and human rights.

IGNITE will engage high-profile “Champions,” including Facebook COO and Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead author Sheryl Sandberg; Reshma Saujani, Executive Director of Girls Who Code; singer/songwriter Carolyn Malachi; and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. The project includes:

  • An online petition, co-presented with UN Women, calling for governments and the United Nations to take action to end the gender gap in technology to advance women’s rights.
  • First-person videos of high-profile women and men describing their “Spark Stories” – moments that sparked their interest in science and technology – including KIVA co-founder Jessica Jackley and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark.
  • Inspiring stories of women working at the grassroots to propel women’s rights through technology – for example Inwelle Study and Resource Center in Nigeria enables girls to learn and hone their computer and ICT skills to empower them with income opportunities that can help them challenge harmful practices like child marriage.
  • Historical accounts of pioneering women, such as Wangari Maathai, who left Kenya to study biology in the U.S., became the first Eastern African woman to earn a PhD, founded the Greenbelt Movement, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
  • Documentary films and interviews with women leaders using technology to advance human rights, such as Juliana Rotich, the founder of Ushahidi, whose open-source Crowdmap software is used to report rights abuses.
  • Descriptions of groundbreaking women-designed innovations addressing human rights issues, like the work of Acciones Coordinadas Contra La Trata/Coordinated Actions Against Human Trafficking (ACCT) to develop Argentina’s first “national crime map” and apply forensic science tools and DNA analysis to identify women and girls disappeared through trafficking.
  • A global girls “Hackathon” in January, co-presented with UN Women, which will see girls around the world compete to design a solution for a pressing issue of girls’ human rights.

“We can’t divorce the global technology gap and the future of women’s rights,” says Musimbi Kanyoro, CEO and President of Global Fund for Women. “We work with women’s organizations all over the world who tell us that the gap is deep and it needs addressing now. We are in the midst of a global technology revolution and if women are left behind the consequences will be bleak.”

Global Fund for Women is partnering with UN Women, the United Nations entity responsible for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, on the IGNITE petition and global girls “Hackathon.” UN Women is actively promoting women’s participation and leadership in information and communications technology (ICT) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

“Science, technology, and innovation underpin every aspect of the global development agenda and many facets of the everyday lives of girls and women,” says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women. “The transformative power and potential of science, technology, and innovation are undeniable but must be actively harnessed for good, and deliberately made inclusive. Girls’ and women’s full engagement in these sectors and the sharing with them of the benefits of science, technology, and innovation are imperatives of our age. Gender equality and women’s empowerment will not be achieved without science, technology, and innovation and conversely these fields will suffer without the benefit of women’s talents, perspectives, and knowledge.”

As part of the Technology Initiative, Global Fund for Women has also established a new Technology Fund, which aims to attract and invest more than USD 2 million over three years to empower women and girls with access to technology and propel the organizing capabilities of grassroots women’s groups. The Fund will complement the IGNITE advocacy and awareness raising campaign and offer a way for donors to show their commitment to the issue.

IGNITE will also include a crowd-sourced component, through which people everywhere are invited to describe what sparked their interest in science or technology with #MySparkStory. These stories will be curated by 10 international employees of Symantec, a lead sponsor of IGNITE.

“We are delighted to participate in IGNITE and to help shine a light on amazing women and girls who bring their talents to the fields of technology and science,” says Cecily Joseph, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec. “Having a diversity of perspectives in schools, in the lab, and in the workplace, ensures that the products Symantec builds and the decisions we make meet the needs of the broad spectrum of people we serve worldwide.”

About Global Fund for Women:
Global Fund for Women is a grantmaker and global advocate for women’s human rights. We advance the movement for women’s human rights by directing resources to and raising the voices of women worldwide. We invest in courageous women and local women-led organizations, and create digital advocacy campaigns on critical global issues for women and girls.

IGNITE: Women Fueling Science and Technology is made possible by generous support from Symantec, National Endowment for the Arts, and Wells Fargo.

Sharene Azimi, (646) 784-5547
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This press release is cross-posted from IGNITE.