Women are under–represented in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT), both at an educational and professional level, speakers at a workshop on women in the digital age said on Monday.
They argued that closing the gap between men and women in ICT would yield important social and economic benefits for them and national economies.
“Women still face significant challenges in the digital technologies sector, which affect all stages of their professional and social development,” Communications Minister Vassiliki Anastassiadou remarked.
According to a study of the European Commission on Women in the Digital Age, four times more men than women studied information and communication technologies in 2015 in Europe.
Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria recorded the best results in the EU, with a lower ratio of three times more men than women.
Only 24 out of 1,000 women who obtained a higher education degree in the EU graduated from ICT departments and only six of them followed a professional career in digital jobs.
The study showed that women working in the digital sector tend to leave their work between the ages of 30 and 44 at a rate of 8.7%, which is four times more than men.
This phenomenon of women opting out of the digital sector is estimated to cost €16 bln annually in lost productivity.
In terms of female entrepreneurship, 23.4% of ICT entrepreneurs in Europe were women in 2015, an increase of 4% compared with five years before.
Despite the limited percentage of women in entrepreneurship, the study showed that digital start-ups set up by women are more likely to be successful than those of men, and that investment in these businesses is 63% more successful than start-ups created exclusively by men.
Anastassiadou said Cyprus will actively contribute to address the fact that women lag behind in the digital technologies sector, caused by stereotypes in the media, inadequate education of women in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and insufficient involvement of women in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Statistics of the European Institute for Gender Equality for 2017, cited by the Commissioner of Gender Equality Iosifina Antoniou, showed that Cyprus ranks 22 among 28 EU Member States, with 55.1 points out of 100.
The effort, she noted, should aim at closing the digital gap between the two genders, promoting female employment and entrepreneurship and removing inequalities in the labour market.
The National Action Plan on Equality between Men and Women 2018-2021, currently presented to the public for consultation, includes “Education and Training of Women in Information Technologies and Communication” as one of its main pillars, said Antoniou.
Women could play a leading role in sustainable development, the green economy and the 4th industrial revolution, said Zefi Dimadama Senior Research Fellow at International, European and Regional Studies of Panteion University, Athens.
She said that women entrepreneurs should turn to sectors of the economy where best practices can be found, such as cultural and creative industries, that combine arts, entrepreneurship and technology.