This year’s International Women’s Day encourages everyone to celebrate the achievements of women, as well as to highlight the areas in which change still needs to be made to further their opportunities. Set up by the UN Women and the United Nations, this theme for 2023 is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
Across the world, Digital technology is opening new doors for the global empowerment of women, girls, and other marginalized groups. From gender-responsive digital learning to tech-facilitated sexual and reproductive healthcare, the digital age represents an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate all forms of disparity and inequality.
Women and girls remain underrepresented across the creation, use, and regulation of technology, and advancing technology is also introducing new forms of inequality and heightened threats to their rights and well-being.
At Arden University, we are committed to widening access for participation for those wishing to make use of the transformative power of our bespoke style of digital education; especially those who have found traditional routes into education blocked.
We believe that the cutting-edge education technology and real-world relevance embedded within our programmes provide our students the skills to develop, the knowledge to succeed, and the opportunity to untap potential that others may have overlooked.
Since our earliest inception, we have demonstrated our commitment to ensuring digital technology is at the forefront of all that we do, and we’re proud to outline just some of the ways we are helping address some of the problems that this year’s International Women’s Day’s theme highlights.
Women and girls remain underrepresented across the creation, use and regulation of technology. They are less likely to use digital services or enter tech-related careers, and significantly more likely to face online harassment and violence.
According to the UN, this limits not only their own digital empowerment but also the transformative potential of technology as a whole—over the past decade, women’s exclusion from the digital sphere has shaved $1 trillion off the GDP of low- and middle-income countries.
Last year we released an automation report outlining some of the ways in which automation is set to alter the labour market, as well as some of the jobs it will remove altogether in the coming years. As the report outlines, the technologies that power automation are incredibly sophisticated, but none are as powerful or sophisticated as the human brain. The research has indicated that the jobs that remain will be ones that are increasingly reliant on cognitive and soft skills and cannot be replicated by computers. In order to prevent anyone, especially women, from being excluded further in this shifting workplace, we make sure to embed digital literacy across all of our programmes.
Our inspirational Deans of Faculty are at the very heart of Arden’s efforts to open up access through the transformative power of education technology. The work of our deans, their connections to industry, and their belief in providing education from a digital-first perspective, means that we are encouraging a whole new generation of women into industries which have been dominated by a male presence. Helping women in Business, and especially in helping women into STEM subjects.
Past efforts to increase women’s representation have often focused on women’s supposed disinterest in STEM fields, rather than on the systems that exclude them. That messaging has actually backfired, fuelling the idea that women don’t have real interest or talent in STEM.
Effective solutions must target both the barriers that force women out of STEM jobs and those that keep girls from pursuing them in the first place.
Digital learning, however, provides new opportunities to adapt educational environments and curricula to the needs of girls and students from marginalized groups.
We recently hosted a webinar with our deans on the subject of the need for opening up access. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, alongside our learning programmes, our commitment to cutting-edge technology has led to the implementation of a range of supporting platforms and digital infrastructure to further provide digital literacy, skills, and opportunities for our learners.
Our new Careers Platform – Arden Futures – has been designed to help encourage students to explore a variety of career areas through the Career Discovery and Pathways content, as well as providing access to a number of exciting employer events.
The platform is available to help students develop their career management skills and can offer students automated advice on CVs and cover letters, as well as insight into the interviews and online tests that many employers ask graduates and professionals during recruitment processes. These services are available 24/7 to students.
Additionally, we launched an online careers chatbot to support prospective students understand the courses available at Arden, how they relate to different careers, and what those careers might actually be like.
Sourcing careers information from a wide range of independent sources, including Prospects.ac.uk, the chatbot is freely available for anyone to use online via Arden’s website, and represents part of Arden’s ongoing commitment, though its Access and Participation Plan, to offer a broader ‘all welcome’ free service to the public, including adults neither applying to nor studying with Arden but who have not typically received effective careers guidance and support.
Arden University’s Inclusion team, meanwhile, have set about helping students familiarise themselves with a range of easy-to-use Assistive technology through a series of one-to-one sessions and helpful videos.
Assistive technology, an umbrella term for any tool or software that supports with completing tasks or activities, includes tools that remove accessibility barriers or that change the way a person may interact with a computer. A broad variety of tools are available which can help students remove barriers. For example, dictation tools exist which can help write essays and text-to-speech tools can read long research papers aloud.