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Parliament calls for gender equality in the information society

The European Parliament has, by an overwhelming majority, adopted a report on women in the information society which calls on the Commission and Member States to devise policies to ensure gender equality in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. The repo...

The European Parliament has, by an overwhelming majority, adopted a report on women in the information society which calls on the Commission and Member States to devise policies to ensure gender equality in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. The report, by Greek MEP Anna Karamanou, was approved by 414 votes, with 18 against and 49 abstentions, during a plenary session in Brussels on 6 November. The document seeks to address what it calls 'disappointing figures' in terms of the number of female students and entrepreneurs in the ICT sector. Of particular concern to the Parliament is the possibility that certain groups could be excluded from the information society, such as older women, women with disabilities, and those from ethnic minorities. In order to avoid the emergence of a two speed information society, the report calls on the Council, Commission, and Member States to undertake a series of targeted initiatives. The most wide reaching of these is a demand to see gender equality policies implemented in areas such as vocational training, life long learning, and the equal division of family responsibilities in order to facilitate access to the information society by women. In devising these and other initiatives, policy makers must 'ensure the full involvement of women in planning and decision making on Information Society policies.' Furthermore, women should play an equal role in the control and management of the ICT sector, the report states. Throughout the report there is an emphasis on the Commission and Member States to take proactive measures to address the issue. The message is that authorities and stakeholders should seek out the participation of women, rather than waiting to be approached by those concerned. The first opportunity for MEPs to assess how receptive the other EU institutions are to their proposals will come at the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva in December. The report calls on the Commission and Council to submit practical proposals for gender equality at the event. Finally, there is a call for gender equality issues to be integrated into European and Member State ICT policies in developing countries. Women's and girls' education is described as the most sustainable form of development in the developing world, particularly the 'advantages of ICT for women [...] in the forms of information transfer in the area of health, (sexual) education, food production and environmental knowledge.'