This year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Embrace Equity’, is being celebrated by The United Nations as ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. It aims to draw attention to the impact of the digital gender gap on widening economic and social inequalities and the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces.

We’ve been speaking to women in our DigiKnow Alliance about why digital skills are vital for women and what’s happening to reduce digital inequalities for women in Stockport.

Digital exclusion intersects with other disadvantages. Digital poverty and other forms of poverty (food, fuel, bed) are not mutually exclusive. But the opportunities of being online are limitless. The confidence to use digital tools can support those who need it the most to connect to a community or to research information, helping everyone to take an equal part.

When a learner in her 80s shared information about her grief and loss, we saw a team member able to recommend websites that have helped them too. The shared experience and connection was equally as important as the information given. For us, #DigitALL is about commonality. Listening to other women, sharing stories, forming relationships, imparting knowledge and building digital skills.

Data shows us that women are less likely to be online than men and this not only impacts things like job prospects, but it also has a direct link to our health too. From personal experience, I am a huge advoke for safe women-only spaces for health and wellbeing support. I found that space online, where I discovered solidarity, kindness, and accurate knowledge. When I was sick, online space was a significant cornerstone for my wellbeing. I dread to think what it would have been like not having access to the internet at that time.

For me, it should be a universal right to have access to the internet and to have somewhere to go to find out how to use it safely. Read more in my blog: #DigitALL – celebrating IWD2023.

Nicola Wallace Dean

COO, Starting Point Community Learning Partnership

At MadLab, we understand the importance of closing the gender gap in digital skills and employment. Diversity in all forms is super important for development teams. Simply put, how can an organisation that doesn’t represent all people within itself possibly create technological solutions that suit all people equally?

Look at the solutions already in effect today. The crash test dummy is male – and as such, women are 73% more likely to be injured than men in an equivalent car crash. Despite knowing this, it was only in late 2022 that a female crash test dummy was announced as being developed by an engineering team led by Dr Astrid Linder in Sweden.

As another example, Fitbit launched the ability to track periods via its smartwatches in 2018. Unfortunately, the implementation of the software restricted tracking menstruation lasting more than ten days, which restricted women whose periods lasted longer – something that perhaps could have been prevented had the company employed some women in their teams…

With this in mind, we need to support more women to work in STEM to address the imbalances from within. Our latest course starting 29th March – Introduction to Web Development – is being run at Stockport Museum for Stockport residents aged 18-30. It is open to everyone, but we especially welcome applications from women, and I hope to see you there!

Claire Wicher

Head of Education & Skills, Manchester Digital Laboratory (MadLab)

Starting Point digital sessions are open to everyone, but in every session, I see something unique when women help other women to be more digitally included. Particularly for older learners, technology can be seen as a very ‘male’ topic, adding another barrier to women being online. Half of DigiKnow Digital champions are women, which is empowering, being supported by someone like yourself. 57% of DigiKnow digital device lending library clients are female; access to a digital device is a key part of being digitally included.

Digital exclusion will intersect with other exclusions. If you are facing unfair barriers due to gender, race, sexuality, age, disability and other exclusions, digital problems will compound this, and being online can bring benefits to help break down other barriers. Whether you want to get online for help to access reliable women’s health information, feel empowered by women’s voices like your own on You tube, find local support in your community or get online tips on your CV to take account of maternity leave – come and have a chat to us. DigiKnow Helpline 07724 217888.

Clara Jones

Head of Digital Inclusion, Starting Point Community Learning Partnership

According to the Office for National Statistics Report ‘Exploring the Digital Divide’, 58 percent of “internet non-users” (or 3.1 million people) in the UK were women. As part of the DigiKnow partnership, Stockport Support Hub and Your Support help people to learn new digital skills and access devices.

We regularly meet with people who are digitally excluded, we work with them to enable them to access online services and resources such as bank accounts, health appointments, benefit applications, utilities, education and employment opportunities and connecting with others.  Between April 22- February 23, we have facilitated 321 digital support sessions with women to build their confidence around digital skills so that they can benefit from online resources. 

Siobhan Myers,

Team Manager, Your Support

Digital literacy is described as the skill and ability to use digital technology and online resources in an effective and safe way in everyday life. Not having digital skills can lead to exclusion and loneliness.

While improving existing and designing new services, it is very important to keep that in mind and meet all user needs, to design user-centered inclusive services. Digital inclusion to me means that services need to be co-designed with the users, thinking about the outcome first and then digital.

Being digitally literate gives me confidence and freedom in my professional and personal life.  Thanks to technology I can stay connected with my friends and family. In addition to this, it also saves loads of time as, if possible, I do things online eg book my holidays.

Zivile Petraviciute

Lead Service Designer, Stockport Council

DigiKnow, Stockport’s Digital Inclusion Alliance, helps digitally excluded residents get online for the first time or improve their digital skills and confidence using the internet. Across Stockport, more than 60 partners from all sectors help people to get one-to-one support from a Digital Champion, join free group classes in their local community or borrow devices or data to get them started.

If you know someone who needs support with digital, call the DigiKnow Helpline on 07724 217 888. If you’d like to help or to join our alliance, please get in touch.

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