Public and private sectors join forces to advance gender equality

The future is female.

Who runs the world? Girls.

These mantras and anthems are pervading pop culture with good reason.

Thanks to social media and other digital means of communication, there has never been a more opportune time for women and girls to raise their voices, and connect with others across the globe. And there has never been a more crucial time for the public and private sectors to join forces to advance gender equality in tech, innovation and entrepreneurship. When women are in leadership roles in these fields, more money is put into their communities, creating a more peaceful and sound world.

See also: Girls power tech

That’s why UN Women has launched the Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC), an alliance bringing together 22 partners from the private sector, the non-profit world, and academia to take collective action on making technology more accessible and work better for young women and girls—an important mission at Cisco, a proud member of the coalition.

During middle school, 74% of girls show interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, only 0.3% of high school girls select computer science. One way the GICC is striving to advance girls through technology is to find innovative ways of getting them more interested in pursuing STEM related careers.

Encouraging more women to work in STEM fields will help ensure there’s balance in the products and services consumers purchase, and justice in how businesses are built and led.

What role is Cisco playing in the coalition?

“Simply by having an Internet connection, a woman can access the training, education, business opportunities, and financial services she needs to become empowered, secure, and financially independent.”“Technology is a great equalizer,” says Charu Adesnik, deputy director at the Cisco Foundation. “It enables anyone to participate in the digital economy, regardless of their gender, location, or socio-economic background. It is what connects the unconnected, providing equal access to the benefits of digitization. At the same time, technology facilitates scale, enabling solutions to reach the most people. Simply by having an Internet connection, a woman can access the training, education, business opportunities, and financial services she needs to become empowered, secure, and financially independent.”

As a member of the alliance, Cisco will work with other coalition members to invest in and test innovative ideas, and scale proven solutions that advance the participation of girls and women in STEM careers, entrepreneurship and access to finance.

How is the GICC different from other gender equality initiatives that work with multiple partners?

These days, there a number of similar initiatives aiming to advance gender equality, but the the GICC is unique. “The GICC is different from previous efforts in that it is an ongoing collaborative partnership,” says Fiona Bayat-Renoux, a UN Women Senior Official. “The GICC members work together to ensure tangible solutions are implemented to advance women and girls across innovation and technology sectors. The GICC members are also engaged with UN Women in an informal advisory capacity to help UN Women improve its own work in this area.”

See also: How blockchain can help women advance

The initiative will be conducted over a two-year period to develop tangible tools and methodologies for integrating gender into innovation and promoting women as innovators and entrepreneurs.

While many of the companies participating are often competitors, they’re coming together because corporate leaders know that improving and expanding opportunities for girls isn’t merely a cause, it’s a better way to do business, and have a positive social impact at the same time.

Members of the alliance include tech titans, financial services, academic institutions and brands, such as Dell, Ericsson, Facebook, LinkedIn, General Electric and HP, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, LinkedIn, Pax World Management, PwC, SAP, Sony, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship (South Africa), Ellevate Network and more.