This year the theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) in Australia is Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future. This theme compliments the United Nations 2023 IWD theme, DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
Lifting girls and women out of poverty and financial hardship, increasing opportunities to contribute and connect, and fostering equitable access to technology and safer online spaces has become integral to the achievement of gender equality.

Everyone must be given the opportunity and provided with the tools to access technology and online spaces, which are now considered essential components of navigating the physical and social world.

From simple administrative tasks to accessing health and financial services, digital adoption and technological literacy can heavily inform the ease with which a person moves through life.

Opportunities for education and employment are greatly increased by technological and digital literacy – once in the workforce, flexibility can rely on the ability to work from home, using technology to participate in paid employment while undertaking care responsibilities and family connection.

Existing inequities can already exclude or minimise women’s equal participation in many areas of life. The gender pay gap, higher rates of housing insecurity and exposure to family violence, disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care and domestic labour, and sexist attitudes parading as social norms – these factors and more are exacerbated by digital exclusion.

The imperative for digital inclusion, digital access and digital literacy are all matched by the need to foster digital safety in achieving gender equality.

The prevention of and response to violence against women and girls must consider digital literacy and tailor solutions with digital harm in mind. You can visit WESNET’s Technology Safety Australia for advice and information on digital safety in the context of gender-based violence.

There are a number of barriers to the vision for innovative, technologically enabled gender equality encapsulated by the IWD theme, with girls and women currently underrepresented in STEM fields and digital adoption due to factors like rigid gender norms, economic disparities and the expectation that women and girls perform unpaid labour disproportionately to their male counterparts.

If identifying as a woman is a barrier to equitable access to digital literacy opportunities and safe online spaces, there are a number of other factors which intersect to compound this inequity and exacerbate exclusion.

People with disability are excluded from online spaces and service provision when content is inaccessible. People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can face additional barriers when navigating technology which does not facilitate their access needs and many older people have not received the education required to navigate technology that seems so innate to a younger generation.

If we consider that many of these demographic and social factors will overlap, it becomes clear that digital inclusion and digital literacy must be fostered with tailored solutions in mind.

At WHGNE we take a particular interest in the ways in which rurality and place might inform the access needs of various communities. Women living in rural and remote areas have lower rates of digital adoption but rely on technology to engage and access fundamental services, like health.

Efforts to improve women’s digital literacy in rural areas can have a positive impact on the lives of women, their families and entire communities.

To find out more about digital literacy programs in the bush, visit Rural Women Online and find free sessions in your area.

On IWD, Wednesday 8 March 2023, WHGNE eLearning will launch with a brand new course on digital inclusion and a number of interactive courses on subjects like gender equity.

To celebrate the official launch of WHGNE eLearning and IWD 2023, WHGNE is proud to announce an online launch event from 1:30pm onwards, featuring guest speaker Tammy Atkins.

You’ll hear from Tammy and some of our team about the importance of intersectional digital inclusion and equitable access to technology and online spaces in rural communities, as well as explore the WHGNE eLearning courses. A Q and A will follow.

You can find the event page and Zoom link here