BERLIN: The winners of the 2019 EQUALS in Tech Awards were announced this evening at a gala awards ceremony at Berlin’s Estrel Conference Center, as part of the programme of activities surrounding the annual Internet Governance Forum.
The awards, hosted by the EQUALS Global Partnership, recognize innovative solutions aimed at closing the digital gender gap.
This year’s winners joined high-level representatives from EQUALS for a celebration of successful strategies and projects to promote gender equality in the technology sector. Winning initiatives were chosen from a pool of 15 outstanding finalists from 12 countries. Over 200 organizations submitted entries for this year’s awards, which span five categories: Access, Skills, Tech Leadership, SME Leadership, and Research.
“The EQUALS in Tech Awards have become an annual tradition and a key moment to recognize women in tech initiatives worldwide,” said Joyce Dogniez, EQUALS Steering Committee Chair and VP, Community Engagement & Development with the Internet Society (ISOC). “This year, at the Internet Governance Forum, we’re celebrating five winners who are doing inspiring work to advance gender equality in their communities. I am very proud that the Internet Society has been able to support these initiatives, considering the impact they have. This ceremony is critical to showcasing role models in the EQUALS Partnership.”
2019 EQUALS in Tech Award Winners
The Access award was presented to Dinarak Mobile Money Female Agent, a Jordanian start-up that provides women with access to mobile banking services via a network of female agents. The award was conferred on Ayman Dababneh, Head of Business Development and Marketing at Dinarak, by Afke Schaart; Regional Lead and VP, Europe, Russia and CIS at GSMA.
Dinarak’s founder and CEO, Imad Aloyoun, said, “Jordan has one of the largest financial inclusion gender gaps in the world. By providing access to and use of our inclusive mobile money services, we at Dinarak are aiming to build bridges across this gender gap in our society. Dinarak’s female agent network is progressively changing social attitudes and helping to knock down barriers to inclusive growth and development.”
The Skills prize went to the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre (W.TEC), an NGO working to enable women and girls to become professionals and entrepreneurs in the tech sector. The Nigeria-based organization’s mission is to “educate, connect and empower Nigerian women through active engagement with information and communication technology via training, mentoring and research.” The award was presented to W.TEC Founder and Executive Director Oreoluwa Lesi by Cédric Wachholz, UNESCO’s Chief of ICT in Education, Culture and Science.
Ms Lesi said, “Technology can be an incredible force for good; enabling women to make meaningful connections with relevant networks, generate income, access important information and broaden their professional, personal and social vistas. But it can also be a tool to disenfranchise and exploit women unless girls and women understand how to build, use and advocate for technology that benefits them.”
Leadership in Tech award
The 2019 Leadership in Tech prize was awarded to US-based SheWorks!. SheWorks! focuses on social impact, tacking female unemployment by helping women access online training and find flexible, remote jobs. The company uses cloud technology, machine learning algorithms and data science to help women from over 70 countries find empowering jobs that can be performed from anywhere in the world. The award was presented to founder and CEO Silvina Moschini by Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Senior Vice President of Strategy and Implementation at ISOC.
According to Moschini, “SheWorks! is disrupting gender unemployment by connecting the dots between talent, online education, and remote jobs to economically empower women from around the globe with flexible and digital work opportunities that fit their lifestyle.”
Leadership in SMEs award
The Leadership in SMEs prize was awarded to Kumasi Hive, a multi-space innovation hub that provides a platform for rapid prototyping of ideas and supporting local innovations, based in Kumasi, Ghana. The organization’s Bridge the Gap initiative specifically targets women and girls through door-to-door campaigns, social media, and school visits for skills training in robotics, graphic design, web and mobile app development, and more. Participants leave with the skills to start their own businesses, to apply for jobs in the tech sector, and to train other women and girls in their communities. The award was presented to Sandra Juliet Ahiataku, who attended on behalf of Kumasi Hive, by Jorge Cancio, Deputy Head of International Relations at the Swiss Federal Office of Communications.
Ms Ahiataku, the Bridge the Gap lead, said “Kumasi Hive, through its female-led initiative Bridge the Gap, has trained close to 1,500 women and girls in digital skills. Graduates of the programme have gone on to found 60 start-ups, creating new jobs. Others have gone on to acquire existing jobs through the skills they gained through our programme.”
The Research category award went to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for its report Portray Her: Representations of Women STEM Characters in Media.
The result of a 10-year study conducted by the Geena Davis Institute and Lyda Hill Philanthropies, the report assesses how the US media and society portray STEM professions, and how this affects girls’ perception of and participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The award was presented to Mary Ellen Holden, Advisor at the Institute, by Dr Urs Gasser of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.
According to Geena Davis, Academy Award winning actor and founder of the institute, “Media portrayals of STEM characters send the negative message that STEM professions are only for men.” Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies, added: “We are working together to encourage more diverse, female STEM characters and storylines in popular media in order to change that perception and inspire girls and women to pursue STEM education and careers.”
“The EQUALS in Tech Awards recognize the great efforts around the world to empower women in the world of ICTs,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Now, more than ever, we need to redouble our efforts until we are all equals in tech, equals in opportunity, and equals in rights and dignity.”
Awards Evaluation Process
The EQUALS in Tech finalists and winners were selected by an advisory board comprising the EQUALS Steering Committee, former award winners, and the leaders of the partnership’s four Coalitions — Access, Leadership, Skills and the EQUALS Research Group.
The 2019 Awards were supported by the Internet Society, the Swiss Federal Office of Communications, the Government of Germany, and Inmarsat.
Chris Köver and Christoph Seidler, two Berlin-based tech journalists, hosted the awards for an audience of around 300 representatives from government, civil society, business, academia, international organizations and the tech sector.
“Today’s ceremony recognizes not just the outstanding efforts of our five amazing winners, but the extraordinary energy, creativity and commitment behind the more than 200 projects, NGOs, government programmes and private sector organizations right around the world that participated in this year’s awards, and which are striving to make a real difference to the lives of today’s women and girls,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau and one of the founding members of the EQUALS Global Partnership. This year’s EQUALS in Tech Awards winners join a fast-growing group of organizations and individuals that have demonstrated their commitment to closing the digital gender gap. Recognizing that women and girls are equal in capacity, creativity and innovation, they are using their platforms to achieve equality in access and opportunities for women. News Desk