This International Women’s Day, 8 March 2023, we celebrate women under the theme ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. From the earliest days of computing to the present age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, women have made untold contributions to the digital world in which we increasingly live.
We asked five prominent women working on, and for, the Montreal Protocol, who are actively and passionately engaged in the protection of the ozone layer and the environment, how technology helped advance their careers and how they envision innovation and technological developments supporting young women in the future.
Kerryne James, Minister, Ministry of Climate Resilience, the Environment, Forestry, Fisheries, Disaster Management and Information with responsibility for Forestry and Fisheries, Grenada
As a young and female parliamentary representative and Government Minister, in a small island developing state (SIDS), technology has indeed been a game-changer for my political career. Technology has helped me to overcome some of the challenges associated with underrepresentation in politics. It has allowed me to reach a wider audience and connect with Constituents in ways that may not have been possible in the past. It has also enabled me to engage, and provided me with a platform to collaborate with other women in politics, share experiences, and learn from their successes, as well as provided me with a platform to raise awareness on issues that are unique to SIDS such as climate change and sustainble development. In addition, the use of technology has provided me with a platform to advocate for policies that promote gender equality and to raise awareness on issues that disproportionately affect women. Overall, technology has been a valuable tool in my political career, allowing me to break down barriers and make a positive impact in Parliament.
As a young professional, I see innovation and technological advances as critical factors in helping young women in their future career development. Technology has broken down many of the barriers that previously prevented women from accessing opportunities in traditionally male-dominated fields. It has created new paths for women to pursue careers in areas such as engineering, computer science, and other STEM fields. Furthermore, technology has enabled women to connect with mentors and colleagues from around the world, providing valuable support and networking opportunities. There is absolutely no doubt, that technology has opened up new possibilities for young women to pursue their passions and build successful careers, and it will continue to play a critical role in driving gender equality in the workplace.
Miruza Mohamed, Director, Environment Management and Conservation Department, Maldives
Technology has helped me work in a more efficient and smarter way. The manual processes of the permit approval system for Ozone Depletion Substances (ODS) are now online making it more efficient for the public and the government authorities, including Ministry of Defence, and Maldives Customs Service. Technology has also facilitated access to further knowledge and best practices, enabling me to integrate creative and innovative ideas into my work.
We also have to recognise how technology has facilitated communication and collaboration. It has enabled me to keep abreast of local, regional and global issues and activities pertaining to my field of work, allowing me to make informed decisions and learn from others, as well as co-create solutions with people from different regions with ease due to its ability to break down geographical barriers.
The importance and utility of technology for easing work and ensuring efficient and effective delivery of public services was seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. It enabled me to be connected with my team and colleagues across the world, and helped to ensure that we continued to cater to public needs and expectations. It is important therefore that we further access and break down barriers to technology so that no one is left behind. Innovation and technology offer exciting opportunities for economic advancement for young women, creating new avenues for career and professional growth, facilitating workforce participation, and improving our work life balance.
Women across the world are using technology and innovation to be independent and break away from traditional gender roles, whether it be through digital technologies to become successful entrepreneurs or making use of social media to organise, have a seat at the table and become change makers.
The future is going to be built on these emerging technological advancements and innovation. It is imperative that we work to ensure that every girl and woman can meaningfully participate in this new future. We must ensure that we break down the barriers for girls and women to get into STEM fields, and facilitate access to technology and innovation. Technology and innovation in itself is not going to be the panacea for gender equality and women's empowerment if we do not pay attention to inclusivity, accessibility and participation.
Amalia Nangolo, Ozone Officer, National Ozone Unit, Namibia
Technology has made my work easier because it has helped me to remain connected to my work, business, and studies. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown my work could have potentially suffered but because of technology this was not the case. I was able to work from home comfortably and efficiently using the internet and laptop as well as attend virtual meetings, trainings, and workshops on various platforms. During the pandemic I was also studying towards a Masters of Business Administration remotely. With the help and application of technology, I was able to complete my studies without any delays by utilising the university’s online portals to access study material and upload assignments. Technology helps keeps me in contact with colleagues from all over the world and I appreciate the fact that I never miss out on any news or opportunities that contribute to my career advancement.
With the application of appropriate technology, young women have the opportunity to advance and grow their careers and develop effective strategies that contribute towards successful career progression. Technology presents a wide range of tools and technological choices. I foresee young women utilising social media to become influencers and change ambassadors. With the right marketing exposure young women can become virtual consultants or take charge of the technology in their sectors to promote new technological products such as green/clean cooling appliances in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning sector. With innovative ways to build their careers, young woman can expand their horizons exploring virtual opportunities such as online seminars and courses to further develop or become online providers to supply products that are not found in their home countries.
Clare Perry, Climate Campaign Leader, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), United Kingdom
Technology has completely transformed the way we work, in particular the access to data and information at the press of a button. It has enabled greater communication, increasing access to experts and policy makers around the world on a regular basis, which is vital for my work. Better technology has also given me greater freedom of choice in where to live and raise my family, while still doing the job I love. Technology has also enabled EIA to gather more granular data and evidence of illegal trade crimes and climate impacts (e.g. through access to trade and satellite data) and to present this data in innovative ways e.g. through our Global Environmental Crime Tracker.
Technology levels the playing field in terms of access to information for all – for example, to scientific papers, online debates and discussions and online trainings. Greater access to information allows people to be exposed to ideas, careers, opportunities they may not have come across before. It can help showcase women already working in the field which can be inspiring for young women as they consider their future careers.
The fluorochemical and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry is still very male dominated, but online platforms can be useful ways to make network and share information, without necessarily having to join trade events where the gender balance can be intimidating. Ultimately, it isn’t technology and innovation that are holding women back from a career in this field, and more action is needed to encourage women and create opportunities for them to pursue the necessary steps at university or training college.
Mariska Wouters, Senior Policy Analyst, Resource Efficiency and Waste Division Ministry for the Environment, New Zealand
At the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment, I look after a number of chemical and waste multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including the Montreal Protocol. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had to adapt to different ways of working, almost overnight. Improved online meeting technology was the biggest change that the pandemic created in my work environment. This technology meant that I could continue my work on the MEAs, even if it often meant working in the middle of the night!
At a personal level, the technology was also very important to feel connected to the rest of the world while we were unable to travel even within our own country. The flexibility that online meeting technology provides women to how and where we work is really significant. Ongoing use of and improvements in online digital meeting technology will be important to ensure the future of participation by women in international processes. I hope it will continue to be used for the MEA meetings, where face-to-face meetings aren’t strictly necessary.