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Fostering A New Empowered Generation Of Women

There is a straightforward connection between technology and women’s rights that’s reflected in SDG 5 on gender equality, which includes a specific target for the utilising of technology and ICTs to empower women and girls. Serbia has made considerable progress along these lines, but we can certainly do more

When we think of gender empowerment today, we often associate it with tech. This approach is quite familiar to Serbia, where ever-more girls are acquiring ICT skills. One of the powerful promotions of such a future is the Girls in ICT Day – an international event that’s dedicated to overcoming gender-based stereotypes in the field of occupation and work, which the Association of Businesswomen in Serbia has been promoting for more than ten years, in cooperation with high-tech companies operating in Serbia and various ministries and international organisations. The idea behind the event is to empower girls to be led by their own personal interests and talents, rather than succumbing to stereotypes about what constitute male and female occupations.

ICT is particularly relevant today, as we face a rapidly changing world of work where the right ICT and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills are important for girls and women to compete on an equal footing with boys and men in the economy of the 21st century.

A few years ago, at the initiative and under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, the Government of Serbia adopted its Programme for the Empowerment of Women in Information and Communication Technologies. The programme’s aim was to contribute to the greater inclusion of women and girls in the technology sector, as it relates to the education system and the business world. This programme envisaged the creation of conditions enabling the equal participation of women in the ICT sector.

We still need to do a lot more to reduce the gender gap that exists in the digital sector, but also to foster the socioeconomic empowerment of women

According to the report ICT in Serbia – At a Glance, 2020, Serbia’s IT sector employed 31,000 people in 2018, including 9,000 women. The participation of women in the Serbian IT sector has reached a level of 31%. This is higher than EU-28 average (26%), but the gender gap is still clearly visible. As an illustration, the Serbian IT sector increased total employment by around 4,000 people in 2018, but only 40% of those positions were occupied by women.

Several EU countries in the neighbourhood have higher participations of women in IT: Slovakia (36%), Hungary (35%), Bulgaria (34%), Romania (34%) and Croatia (32%) – all from Eastern Europe.

And yet, as some of our interlocutors for this special edition have already noted, well-educated women are still facing a lot of obstacles to presenting their full potential. And there isn’t much that’s high-tech in that: on the contrary, these obstacles relate to the traditional division of jobs – not just in the economy, but also in the home, where co-parenting or the equal division of household chores are only slowly gaining popularity among younger generations.

Initiating a successful shift of women in Serbia to jobs of the future must include the large network of support institutions like crèches and nursery schools, a new regime of work with flexible working hours to support parenthood, and campaigns to overcome gender stereotypes and strengthen gender equality.

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