Top panelists at the Women´s Economic Empowerment webinar
On Tuesday 18 May 2021 Embassy of Finland in Ottawa, University of Ottawa and Global Affairs Canada co-organized a webinar “Advancing Women and Girls’ rights: Harnessing Technology and Innovation in Support of the Economic Empowerment of Women in the Wake of the Pandemic”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but especially for women. The economic empowerment of women is an important factor for sustainable recovery from the crisis. How to safeguard the rights and economic opportunities of women and girls in the post-pandemic reconstruction?
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The webinar panelists were Minister of International Development Karina Gould (Canada), Minister of Development Cooperation and International Trade Ville Skinnari (Finland), Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (UN Women), Coordinator Milja Köpsi (Mimmit koodaa programme) and Professor Barbara Orser (University of Ottawa). Also, four uOttawa students gave their input to the discussion.
The webinar was opened by Roy Eriksson, Ambassador of Finland in Ottawa, and Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ottawa.
The moderator of the webinar was Martine Lagacé, Associate Vice-President of Research Promotion and Development at the University of Ottawa and MC Associate Vice-President Adel el Zaïm, University of Ottawa.
Unpaid care work a barrier
Minister Karina Gould said Canada is promoting an environment enabling women’s economic empowerment worldwide through the feminist foreign policy. Minister Gould highlighted that responsibilities of unpaid care work is one of the main barriers against women’s economic empowerment, as well as stops them from participating in education and public life. Technology and innovation should be leveraged to help reduce and redistribute these responsibilities. Canada has supported important projects in Africa and other parts of the world to enhance women’s participation.
Equal digital access
Minister Ville Skinnari spoke on Finland’s work as one of the leaders of the multi-stakeholder Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for gender equality. The aim is to create concrete action plans to advance gender equality and bridge the gender digital divide. He emphasized the importance of increasing the number of girls and women studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and systematically increasing women’s participation and leadership in digital economies. All women and girls should have equal digital access and competencies. Gender equality, along with technology and innovation, are priorities in Finnish foreign policy.
Need for adequate infrastructure
Executive Director Pfumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka gave an insight of the analysis by UN Women. She underlined what actions should be taken in the wake of the pandemic, in order to enhance the economic situation of women, such as the need for adequate infrastructure. She also stressed that the Generation Equality Forum is an important way to work together.
Combatting outdated stereotypes
Coordinator Milja Köpsi gave inspiring examples of how to encourage women and girls to enter the world of coding and technology. Combatting outdated and harmful gender stereotypes is essential. “Mimmit koodaa” programme has organized hugely successful workshops and the demand is growing. When companies are involved in the training and education processes, it is easier for women to find jobs and stay in the tech business.
Female entrepreneurs and digitalization
Professor Barbara Orser gave her insight from the academic world on women’s empowerment and the role of research, based on her research programme in women’s entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education. Prof. Orser shared insights from the IDRC-funded Gender-smart Entrepreneurship Education and Training Plus Action Strategy and SSHRC funded Inclusive Entrepreneurship Education Research Project. Examples included women retailers in developing countries using digital wallets.
Empowering women good for all societies
Ambassador Eriksson concluded that many opportunities might go unnoticed if the capabilities of half of the population are not used as a part of the solution. The economic empowerment of women is essential: not only for their sake, but also for the best of our societies and economies as a whole. The pandemic caused the economies to shrink all over the globe and it is time to think how to get the economies back on track. In this, we need all hands on deck.