Activist Malala Yousafzai on why we need to fix gender inequality in tech

Activist Malala Yousafzai on why we need to fix gender inequality in tech

share on

This week, in celebration of International Women’s Day, MARKETING-INTERACTIVE shared a study by She Loves Data (SLD), a global not-for profit organisation that found that female employees in Singapore are trailing behind the region’s average in terms of familiarity with digital marketing. While, it found that 87% of women in Southeast Asia are interested in taking courses to develop their professional skills, only three in 10 women in Southeast Asia are interested in learning about artificial intelligence (AI), data and analytics. According to a Milieu Insight representative, the reason for this could lie beyond just digital marketing. Rather, it could lie in the fact that women in Singapore are already largely underrepresented in tech-related industries.

Don’t miss: Hard to believe, but study says women in SG are trailing behind in digital marketing

It was this lack of women in STEM-related industries that made up the bulk of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai’s keynote discussion at the Qualtrics Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City. In her discussion, which was held alongside industry heavyweights such as Kevin Warren, the CMO of UPS, Ed Bastian the CEO of Delta Airlines and more, Yousafzai noted that technology itself has its own gender biases. She acknowledged this after it was revealed by Mani Pandher, the VP of marketing at Qualtrics who was moderating the discussion, that only 22% of AI workers are women and that up to 45% of AI systems show gender biases.

Only 22% of AI workers are women and that up to 45% of AI systems show gender biases.

A solution, Yousafzai suggested, could come from accelerating STEM education for women and to create more opportunities for women to be part of the tech world as it continues to move forward, something the Malala Fund is working hard to do.

“We support so many projects that are focused on STEM education. We are also partnering with other organisations such as the government of Pakistan, to bring STEM education into 13,000 government schools in the next four or five years,” she said.

Yousafzai continued by saying that the end goal is to ensure that all children, especially girls, have the skills for tech particularly as the hardest jobs in the future will likely be related to technology. “We need to make sure that they're prepared for future jobs,” she said. She added that the lack of women’s access to education surrounding technology was never more apparent than it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. “During COVID, a lot of students were learning from home and on their laptops, phones and other digital devices. In that time, it was really important to look at the access girls have to digital devices,” she said.

She continued by saying that if a family had one digital device, it was more likely that the boys had access to it rather than the girls in the family. She added that girls were also likely to be expected to help with household chores and thus, had less time to dedicate to their studies. “So when we talk about technology, we have to look at the gender aspect,” she said before adding that the tools technology companies create are aimed at serving everyone and that these creators ought to ensure that the input of everyone is actually taken in.

If these things are just made by men who are from a specific age group and with a specific skin colour, then you know, maybe only they should use it.

“But that's not the reality of the world, right? Everybody's using [these tech products]. So, we need to make sure that it is convenient for everyone and make sure it works for everyone. And that's why we want to see more women in technology, from all backgrounds.”

Concluding her short keynote discussion, Yousafzai was asked what she would like to say to the business leaders and tech innovators that were seated at the Salt Palace Convention Centre. To them, she said that her only ask was that they pause to think about how they are influencing and impacting the world around them.

“Ensure that you are making every decision with full responsibility and ensure that it still benefits and serves everyone fairly and equally. Do not take the oath that you have taken for granted. [You have a huge] opportunity to bring fairness and equity into the world. And I hope that you make commitment.”

Related articles:
Hersheys' IWD campaign featuring transwoman leads to backlash
Ad agency Lion and Lion changes name for IWD
Charles & Keith features bullied teenager as face of IWD ad campaign

share on

Follow us on our Telegram channel for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising scene.

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top marketing stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's marketing development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window