DONNE 4.0 – Technology as a lever for female empowerment

Federica Maria Rita Livelli

We are still far from achieving gender equality and are confronted with this reality daily. The pandemic only underlined this issue, which remains unresolved. Furthermore, the historical background within which we operate forces us to be aware of the fact that gender equality, as part of sustainable development, has become a strategic theme for transforming our world. It is well-known that truly sustainable development is impossible in the presence of gender inequality and it is based on this perspective that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 concentrates on this topic.

It is in this scenario that Community Donne 4.0 was founded circa two years ago by two entrepreneurs – Darya Majidi and Gabriella Campanile – with the aim of supporting women so they can be protagonists in building a technological future, which must necessarily be inclusive and sustainable and, at the same time, must value women’s contributions to new global challenges. Community Donne 4.0 firmly believes that technology can be used as a strategic lever in women’s personal and professional growth and that it can help to close the gender gap more quickly. Therefore, last December, Community Donne 4.0 published its Manifesto on Women’s Empowerment in STEM (Manifesto sull’Empowerment delle Donne nel settore STEM) (https://www.communitydonne4.it/manifesto/)) which deals with gender stereotypes in the educational sector and the consequences that these have on teaching and on girls’ psychological development.

We must remember that female representation in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is consistently low. In Italy – where the gender gap in this field is particularly entrenched – only one out of three STEM graduates is a woman, and almost all computer scientists are men. We urgently need a cultural intervention to encourage young women to become active participants in this discipline, which would guarantee that the STEM workforce would be diverse and talented. This could bring about positive change, not only for women but for the whole community. Therefore, there is an impelling need to change the paradigm: to educate and create awareness from childhood onwards, to combat mistrust and all the stereotypes that manifest at school and in families and that undermine girls’ and young women’s self-confidence when it comes to STEM subjects.

In December 2020, Community Donne 4.0 expressed in its Women Tech Empowerment Manifesto the aims it intends to pursue, which reflect the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, the Manifesto was recently presented to and accepted by the G20 Women 20 Summit, further evidence of both the awareness of the need for a diverse, more efficient and profitable workforce, and organisations’ increased awareness of their ability to address hitherto unconsidered perspectives. This is not simply a question of gender equality or social justice: for Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality, the emancipation and self-determination of all women and girls, is not one topic among many but the ‘strategic theme’ that transversally leaves its marks on all other objectives. None of these can be dealt with without looking at them from the point of view of gender, which presupposes that empowered women play an active role, as protagonists. No society can prosper if it wastes and plunders half of its human resources.

It is more urgent than ever to change the way we look at this issue, so we can envision a situation in which women are recognised as protagonists in making choices about the future. We need welfare tools, educational services for early childhood and social infrastructure, but it doesn’t stop there. It is up to women to demonstrate their own capacities with determination, to acquire the necessary skills, and to liberate even more of the energy they have inside. The idea, in other words, is that women allow themselves to keep putting themselves forward and that they commit with tenacity and professionalism to learning and to continuing on this path together; to make others listen, not by force, but with authority and mature assertiveness. ‘Women must be aware of the situation they find themselves in,’ states Darya Majidi, who in addition to being one of the founders of Community Donne 4.0, is also listed by La Repubblica as ‘one of 100 women who are changing the world’. ‘Technology is creating the professions of the future; therefore, there will be a watershed in the professional field. There will be a clear distinction between those who can take these new career paths based on technology and those who will be excluded because they won’t speak the language of technology. The risk is that women are left out of the formative processes necessary for acquiring the tools of the future.’

We must therefore use up-skilling e re-skilling to favour women’s participation in developing technology, given that it is fundamental that women have access to a wider range of opportunities in the technology sector and promote greater diversity to guarantee the creation of solutions and technology created by a plurality of individuals who bring a rich range of life experiences to the table and thereby guarantee that the entirety of the human experience is represented. This is why it is fundamental – at a time when digital technology is taking on an increasingly central role – to identify opportunities, above all for female professionals, bearing in mind the words of the molecular biologist Nancy Hopkins: ‘Things don’t change because time passes, but because we women work to change them.’ 

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