LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally.
Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.
About Tess Robinson
Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over twenty years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning ten years ago.
Learning through a Gender Lens: Reflections on CSW67
By Tess Robinson
Posted 3 April 2023
It was my great privilege this month to be a UN Women UK delegate to the 67th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the gender equality equivalent of COP. The priority theme this year was ‘Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’– very pertinent to my world, as a director and owner of a digital learning company.
It was a whirlwind two weeks, with a huge range of sessions. We heard how technology was helping women and girls in Afghanistan to defy the Taliban and continue to learn, despite a ban on them going to school and university and how digital learning was providing women in Kenya with skills for work via their phones. We examined the intersectionality of gender equality and climate change, heard how rural women in Bangladesh were using digital tools to help them adapt farming methods to changing weather patterns and how recently exiled Iranian women were using online communities to help each other adapt to their new situation. There were so many positive stories of how women (and men) were using digital technologies and digital learning to empower women and girls for the benefit of all.
Alongside these stories, however, was a dark undertow. Since Covid, women’s rights have been rolled back across the globe. At the opening session, António Guterres told us that we are now almost 300 years (!!!) from achieving gender equality across the globe. Pre-pandemic this was around 100 years. This is appalling and something we should all care deeply about, regardless of our own gender. Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. The persistence and amplification of gender inequality only serves to stagnate global social and economic progress. To put it bluntly, the world is at a crisis point in many areas and we will need all-hands-on-deck to find solutions - we simply can’t afford not to fully involve women and girls.
There are huge opportunities for digital and technology to transform the narrative for women and girls but there are still barriers to overcome. As Mathu Joyini, the Chair of CSW67 pointed out ‘the Digital Revolution is not a gender neutral one’. In the tech industry men out number women by 2 to 1* and in AI this is 5 to 1*, with women also facing a 21%* gender pay gap. Gender-biased algorithms proliferate everywhere, as data tends to reflect and amplify real-world bias. Big data quite often turns a blind eye to women and girls altogether – Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women is an excellent read if you want to know more about data gender bias. All this, before we even touch on the fact that women and girls are a shocking 27x more likely than men to face harassment and gender-based violence online.
So, what does all this mean for L&D and digital learning? Laura Overton wrote a great article on LinkedIn earlier this year about looking at our environment and the learning we are designing through different lenses. I would argue that we also need to add a gender lens as well. Gender-bias can be so pervasive that it can be difficult to see unless we shine a light on it. What effect would a gender lens have?
- It will ensure that we are not perpetuating harmful stereotypes in the way that we present different characters or roles in our learning.
- It will make sure the digital spaces we create for learning are safe and accessible to all
- It will create equal opportunities for learning, ensuring the knowledge and skills that we need to tackle today’s challenges are more widespread.
- It may change leadership learning for the better – to move away from masculine trait-based leadership to more collaboration and better, more inclusive decision-making skills
- It will mean that in L&D at least, we are contributing to a more positive and equal society, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
As Sima Sami Bahous, Head of UN Women, said during the of CSW67: ‘Technology and innovation are enablers, what they enable is up to us’.