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EBRD Heike Harmgart discusses closing digital gender gap

EBRD Heike Harmgart discusses closing digital gender gap

 March 24, 2021

Heike Harmgart is the Managing Director for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

In an article for Daily News Egypt Heike shares how, following the digital transformation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that women are able to participate in the labour force fairly and equally. 

Heike explains how, as the world becomes increasingly more digitally connected, a substantial gap is emerging between women and men in terms of accessing and using the internet and using digital, particularly mobile, technologies.

Heike cites that in low and middle income countries, 300 million fewer women than men use mobile internet, a gender gap of 20%. Even prior to the pandemic, women in these countries were 8% less likely than men to own a mobile phone. This can prevent a woman's access to education, employment and healthcare.

Women also faced additional challenges during the pandemic, such as school closures and a reduction of childcare services increased women's domestic responsibilities, while many economies where the EBRD invests have recorded a higher incidence of gender-based violence and harassment due to heightened stress and financial difficulties. Certain sectors such as retail, hospitality and tourism, which are sources of employment for women, have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

Furthermore, women entrepreneurs are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis because of business characteristics, risk preferences and reduced access to finance and professional networks.

Heike shares that EBRD is meeting these challenges with its Strategic and Capital Framework for 2021-25, which sets out the Bank's strategic ambitions. These include the promotion of equal opportunities and the acceleration of the digital transition. 

"Collective efforts are needed to address the serious digital exclusion and inequality that women increasingly experience. Governments, policymakers and regulators in the digital arena, multilateral development institutions, civil society and the private sector all have a responsibility to put digital inclusion at the centre of ‘building back better’," explains Heike.

Read the full article about Heike Harmgart's thoughts on closing the digital gender gap.


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