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Human Rights 11 February 2016

Day of Women In Science at the UN: Shining The Light On Inspiring Women Around The World

Kathryn Brown
By Kathryn BrownFormer President / CEO

Today it was my great honor to speak at the United Nations Headquarters in New York as part of the “International Day of Women & Girls In Science“.  I invite you to read the remarks I prepared below (or watch the video) and to join with me in shining the light on inspiring women around the world.  Working together, we can bring the Internet of opportunity to all people.


Mr. Chairman, Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for your kind invitation to participate in this most important dialogue.

The Internet Society is a global community of Internet engineers, activists and evangelists with 80,000 members and 114 Chapters in 97 countries across the world. The Internet Society is home to the Internet Engineering Task Force. The IETF is the premier, open standards body that creates the protocols that form the foundation for Internet technology. Tens of thousands of volunteer engineers from every part of the world, and thousands of organizations and companies have been working together for 30 years to invent, write, and publish the standards that have contributed to the development, deployment, and adoption of one of the most far-reaching technical advances of humanity. The code that powers the Internet is built on IETF standards.

At the Internet Society, our mission is to ensure that a global, open, trusted Internet is everywhere for everyone.

Information and Communications technology is, among, other things, the common platform which connects, interfaces and scales much of the scientific breakthroughs we are discussing today. In the 21st Century, it is both, if you will, the connective tissue that integrates the knowledge of science and the central nervous system that deploys, lights up and delivers its’ applications.

Women engineers, inventors, connectors and users are a vital part of the Internet’s human architecture and ecosystem. Indeed, the Internet is the spinal cord that connects women with opportunity in technology and science. It allows women from anywhere to access knowledge everywhere and to apply it to whatever enterprise she wishes.

We know that in developed countries, women and men have access to the Internet at close to the same rates but that in the developing world, women are 25% less likely than men to have access. Yet, once women and girls have access to the Internet, they are more likely to use it in their daily lives. 60% of bloggers online are women and women represent close to half of social media users. Importantly, women use their connections to access education, health care, government services and to organize their families and communities for social, economic and political empowerment. That is why it is so important that the UN’s Sustainability Goals include as a core goal universal internet access for all developing countries by 2020.

The Internet Society is working hard around the world not only to further the technical expertise of local communities and businesses to build the infrastructure that supports the Internet but also to develop the human capacity to make full use of its benefits. Women, in particular, are key to advancing full deployment. With on the ground partners, we fund programs with women at the center: in India women are creating micro-level social enterprises based on information and communication technology; in rural Nepal mothers are provided key information about pregnancy and prenatal care in an effort to reduce maternal mortality; in Bolivia, young women are learning digital literacy skills to take part in the digital job market and in Africa we fund and support mentorships for women in computer science and broker partnerships for professional training.

We need to shine the light on efforts such as these that are happening all around the world. Days such as this one today are a good step, particularly as this celebration is happening both here in New York and also out on the Internet through social media and other channels.

But these efforts are insufficient by themselves to adequately equip women and girls with the tools they urgently need to meet the demands of our times. Frankly, we need a concerted and sustained effort by all those who seek to empower women to understand and advance women and girl’s access to the technology that will get them farther faster. As a policy matter, we need to ensure their access to the Internet and to the devices that connect to it in every field of science, everywhere in the world. Every researcher, lab assistant, student and practitioner -whether in New York or Nepal–needs the tools of the 21st century to advance science and society. Funding, research and publishing must keep up with the changes in the way we do our work.

And, we need to take down the barriers in each and every scientific and technical field that stand in the way of the inherent drive, intelligence and capabilities of women and girls who are more than willing to face the challenges before us in medicine, education, engineering, computer science and beyond. Let’s look closely at who are in the science classes, who get the fellowships, who are considered inventors and partners in medicine, education and development. Are we looking to women to participate, to lead? If not, why not and what changes do we need in our policies? In all our science and tech disciplines, are government policies helping or hindering?

Women in science means women on the Internet. Women on the Internet means advancement in science. Let’s make it happen.

Thank you again for this opportunity to participate with you all today. I look forward to working with you to make the Internet of opportunity available to all of our people.

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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