Female leadership: reality & social chance

Our previous post described how, in some contexts, the relation of women and technology is perceived almost as a deviation of the conventional ideas of femininity. But technology is not the only field in which women are still underrepresented. A similar situation is found on leadership positions.

According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015 elaborated by Development Dimensions International (DDI): “Even with a greater academic achievement and an increased presence in global workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership and are more likely to be found in lower-level than higher-level leadership roles”.
This statement is clearly supported by Catalyst’s Women in Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. In the main US companies, women only hold the 4% of CEO positions.

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Women, Evil and Technology vs Conventional Ideas of Femininity

women and technology


The mermaid, the witch, the femme fatale (…): these are all representations of evil women or women who have subverted the conventional ideas of femininity. Kept alive in oral tradition and hidden in the unspoken rules of society, the dangerous, evil woman lives on to define what we believe a woman should be


These words belong to the overview of “Perceiving Evil: Evil, Women and the Feminine” edited by D. Farnell, R. Noiva and K. Smith in the frame of the alternative, unconventional, and multidisciplinary approach promoted by the Evil Project. This year, the Project will hold its 8th Global Meeting in Oxford (UK) on 23-25 September. Its main aim will be to analyse which was and which is the characterization of women with regard to evil. In their own words: “We are fascinated by stories of real and fictional women who perpetrate evil deeds, experience evil as victims, fight against evil and take the blame as scapegoats for evil that exists in the world”. Proposals for various forms of contributions should be summited by 22nd April 2016.

Beyond the idea of evil, it might seem that nowadays the relation of women with the technological world is almost a deviation of the conventional ideas of femininity. In many contexts, mainly in Europe and in the US, the participation of women in this field is completely minority and in some societies women are even perceived not to be “natural technologists”. However, this has not always been the case. As Sarah Murray describes in the Financial Times: “In the US and much of Western Europe in the 1980s, (…), women collected almost 40 per cent of computer science degrees. Today, however, the figure is 15 to 20 per cent”. Leer más

First ladies Obama and Bush urge African leaders to educate, empower women and girls

Click to watch video
Click to watch video

In a conversation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with former first lady Laura Bush, Michelle Obama shared her personal success story and the important role education played in her life.

“I am an African American woman”, she noted, “and there’s nothing in my life that would indicate that I would be sitting on this stage with a former First Lady and the most renowned journalist and every first spouse in Africa. My parents believed in the value of education, even though they were not educated themselves.  And they pushed my brother and I to do the best that we could do.”

Likewise, Mrs. Bush stated that “because only countries where all people are involved can be successful.  When we look around the world and we see countries where half of the population is marginalized or left out, then we usually see countries that are failing.”

Mrs. Obama urged leaders from African nations to empower women and girls by improving their access to education. “Until we value women and girls, we won’t tackle those other problems,” she said. “Until we prioritize our girls and understand that they are as important and their education is as important as the education of our sons, then we will have lots of work to do.”

Read in full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/08/06/first-ladies-obama-and-bush-urge-african-leaders-to-educate-empower-women-and-girls/

The US Government workforce is closing the gender pay gap, but reforms still needed, report says

Women working for the federal government earn less than men overall but the gap is shrinking, and most of the difference is the result of women being concentrated in lower-paying jobs with too few occupying the top ranks. It reflects the changing nature of federal employment: a shift away from occupations such as low-paying clerical jobs, disproportionately filled by women, and growth in higher-paying professional and administrative jobs that are increasingly held by women.

The Office of Personnel Management?s (OPM hereafter) study showed an overall gender pay gap for white-collar occupations of 12.7 percent in 2012, down from 19.8 percent in 2002 and 30 percent in 1992. However, some frustrating realities for women in government remain – e.g. agencies use special authorities to set higher starting salaries when hiring men than when hiring women.

Some of the disparity is based on occupation, the report said, adding that women receive promotions and performance-based increases slightly more frequently. Other factors that may be contributing to the pay gap include work experience, caregiving responsibilities, motivation and performance, which originates out from workplace and have deep social roots.

Read in full:

International Women’s Day: violence and obstacles yet to overcome


About a third of all women in the EU have experienced either physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, and 55% said they had been sexually harassed. These are the hard-hitting findings of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency-carried out survey, recently released.

Results sharply vary among countries: 19% of women have suffered violence by a partner in Poland while in Denmark the share is up to 52%. However, these numbers may be quite misleading, because women in northern societies are far more open to report abuse while in other parts of Europe it is still seen as a domestic, private conflict.

Inequality has so many faces: career development

Indeed, women face inequality in many fields and at different levels of their professional careers. In business, only few of them reach top positions. To deal with that, the Chamber of Commerce of Barcelona recently presented a new online database which enables women to register as potential executives for those companies seeking women to join their Boards of Directors. According to a Spanish law passed in 2007, in big companies the share of women among the Board of Directors’ members will have to be not less than 40% by 2015. However, in Catalonia, only 11% of companies meet that requirement, and this new tool aims to provide them with female talent to bridge the gap ahead of deadline.

During the session, the President of the Women, Business and Economy Observatory of the Chamber, Núria Lao, stated that the cost of the glass ceiling in terms of GDP is about €1bn only in Catalonia, with no more than 4.5% of executive positions being filled by women. Anna Mercadé, Director of the Observatory, observed that with 60% of degree holders being women, numbers must turn upside down.

Ms. Mercadé explained that the database will gather information about skills and abilities acquired both in formal and informal life. Users will be able to attach files to back their proficiency. Eventually, an interview with Chamber’s staff will help identify weaknesses and draw a path to improve applicants’ skills. “It is our duty to convince other women of applying for executive positions, because in the top we have the power to set the agenda, preventing men-shaped work schedules which usually damage work-life balance”, she declared.

A very practical database: a tool for women, boosted by women, to empower women.

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More information:

FRA Report http://fra.europa.eu/en/press-release/2014/violence-against-women-every-day-and-everywhere

Executive Women Database  http://www.conselleresidirectives.com/

About Girls, Skills and Jobs, and MOOCs

Today around 7 million people work in the ICT sector. However, out of the ICT workforce only 30% are women. Women are underrepresented at all levels in the ICT sector, especially in decision-making positions. The ICT sector is rapidly growing creating around 120 000 new jobs every year. But due to differences in demands and skills – and despite the soaring European unemployment – there may be a lack of 700 000 skilled ICT workers in 2015:

Other estimates go even farther: While demand for employees with ICT skills is growing by around 3% a year, the number of graduates from computing sciences fell by 10% between 2006 and 2010. If this trend continues, there could be up to 900 000 unfilled ICT practitioners’ vacancies in the EU by 2015:

One way to reverse this negative trend is to encourage young people, and in particularly women, to take up an ICT-related career. The European Commission wants more to be done across Europe to inspire young women to get interested in ICT. This priority is reflected in the Digital Agenda’s pillar “Enhancing digital, literacy, skills and inclusion”, concretely in action 60, whereas it describes the aim of the Commission to increase the participation of women in the ICT workforce:

Some of the initiatives launched to create growth and jobs in Europe are the following:

* The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs was identified as a key priority in the Digital Agenda Review adopted in December 2012.

* In January 2013, the Commission adopted the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan to unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, unlock expertise, mentoring, technology and services; work with European investors in order to increase the flow of venture capital and crowd-funding (in particular for web start-ups); and stimulate the emergence of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and the setting up of platforms for mentoring and skill building:

More details can be found on the following websites:

Digital gender divide or technologically empowered women in developing countries?

This article by Martin Hilbert (USC – University of Southern California) was published in Women’s Studies International Forum journal in 2011.


The discussion about women’s access to and use of digital Information and Communication Cover JournalTechnologies (ICT) in developing countries has been inconclusive so far. Some claim that women are rather technophobic and that men are much better users of digital tools, while others argue that women enthusiastically embrace digital communication. This article puts this question to an empirical test. We analyze data sets from 12 Latin American and 13 African countries from 2005-08. This is believed to be the most extensive empirical study in this field so far. The results are surprisingly consistent and revealing: the reason why fewer women access and use ICT is a direct result of their unfavorable conditions with respect to employment, education and income. When controlling for these variables, women turn out to be more active users of digital tools than men. This turns the alleged digital gender divide into an opportunity: given women’s affinity for ICT, and given that digital technologies are tools that can improve living conditions, ICT represent a concrete and tangible opportunity to tackle longstanding challenges of gender inequalities in developing countries, including access to employment, income, education and health services.

Read the full article (Web – Elsevier) >>

Read the full article (PDF, 927 KB) >>

Why universities need more women at the top – Working towards gender balance at the top

Article published by Curt Rice in University World News

European universities are failing in the way they use human resources. Women are underrepresented at the top levels of academia, and there are good reasons to think that this damages universities.

In the 27 countries making up the European Union, 59% of university graduates are women, but only 18% of full professors are women. And only 9% of universities have a women at the top of the organisation. For more statistics, see the European Commission’s SHE figures.

Why should we care? Why is this a problem? Why should we work harder to achieve gender balance at the highest levels of academia?


Read the full article >>

The Most Influential Women in Technology

Women Tech

Fast Company Magazine has compiled a list of the most influential women in technology. They did it last year (2010) and now it’s time to know who are the leading female experts in technology for 2011. The list includes different caterories depending onthe expertise fields: The Entrepeneurs, The Gamers, The Brainiacs, The Advocates, The Media, The Executives.

Full list of the Most Influential Women in Technology for 2011 at Fast Company Website

Image by | Fast Company www.fastcompany.com

Roundtable on Education, Gender and ICTs

Next May 20, will take place a roundtable on Education, Gender and ICTs. The roundtable will be chaired by Gill Kirkup, senior professor of educational technology at the Institute of Educational Technology of the Open University (UK) and Head of Research, Data and Policy at the UK Resources Center for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology.Juliet Webster, who opened the cycle of roundtables about Women and ICTs last December, will be also giving us her point of view regarding this issue. 

During the event, we will reflect about ICTs, education and women, starting from an initial question whether ICTs are a tool to help women to access education or if they have become a new barrier for them.

We will also focus on the situation in the developing countries, since education for women usually must respond to other kind of needs and we will reflect on the present role played by ICTs and  try to figure out how can be their future role.

The event will be at the Jordi Pujol room from 10am to 12pm in Tibidabo (Avda. Tibidabo, 39-43) and among the attendants there will be members of the UOC Commission for Equality, researchers of the UOC Group of Research on Gender and ICTs and  a representative of the Support Office for Equal Opportunities of the UPC.

People interested in attending, please confirm your participation at: catedraunesco@uoc.edu.(limited availability).
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