By Pamela Ward, Deputy Senior Commercial Officer, United States Commercial Service Europe
In honor of International Women’s Day, the U.S. Commercial Service, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is organizing a series of “Women in Tech” events across Europe. In twenty-seven locations, women leaders and emerging entrepreneurs in the digital and technology sectors will gather to discuss the challenges they have faced, how they have overcome them, and how they and policy-makers can encourage current and future generations of women in the sector. They will share best practices on topics ranging from encouraging girls to participate in STEM activities to how to recruit, retain and promote women in order to ensure that the digital economy is fully engaging over half of the world’s work force. In each location, the events will feature a virtual welcoming address by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.
The first International Women’s Day (IWD) was held in 1911 and thousands of events occur annually to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. The United Nations has officially recognized IWD since 1975 and while it has used this day to highlight women’s achievements, it also uses it to address the discrimination that women face in different societies.
Related: History of International Women’s Day (United Nations).
This year’s theme for IWD is #PledgeForParity. In 2015, the World Economic Forum predicted that gender parity would only be reached by 2133. The United Nations wants to close the gender gap more quickly: “Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity”.
“This gap between women’s inherent value and how many of them are treated every day is one of the great injustices of our time. On this International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to closing that gap.” (President Barack Obama, March 8, 2015)
On this International Women’s Day, the goal of the “Women in Tech” series is not only to honor the achievements of women, but to continue to move the agenda forward and to be a part of the development of women leaders and success stories in the economy of the future. We believe that entrepreneurship, innovation and the importance of women’s leadership in commerce and trade are each foundational issues for the growth of the global economy particularly in the rapidly advancing IT sector. Tech startups are flourishing in both the United States and Europe and the environment is prepared for even greater expansion. Most of tomorrow’s jobs on both sides of the Atlantic will be found in companies that are being conceived and established right now. In order to foster the belief, focus the energy and nurture the creativity of the today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurial leaders, especially women, we should not only ensure that the knowledge and tools that are necessary for success are available to them, but we should also create opportunities for successful women to address and share their stories and expertise with them.
We must open the doors for women to fully participate in society – as farmers, entrepreneurs, engineers, executives, and leaders of their countries. (U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 8, 2015)
In line with these goals and to promote trade and investment, economic growth, entrepreneurship and diversity, Commercial Service Europe developed the “Women in Tech”-themed events to be held throughout Europe. The events have a branded region-wide umbrella structure that allows for a coordinated dialog focused on the impact of female entrepreneurs and tech leaders on job creation, growth and the transatlantic relationship as well encouraging women entering the field.
In Brussels, there will be three organized events. The United States Ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Gardner, will host a roundtable on “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in the Tech Sector” and U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium Denise Bauer will host a discussion on building an inclusive tech eco-system. The discussions will involve more than 30 high-level guests from the private and public sector. The culminating event will be a networking reception bringing the two groups together along with a select group of local leaders and digital entrepreneurs with a common interest in the issue.
The Commercial Service is confident that this series of events across Europe will not only lead to interesting discussions, but will also stimulate action on this vital issue. Check out our Twitter feed at #WomenInTech and #E2EWomenTech to follow the discussions and hear some of the ideas and stories that emerge from the events.
U.S. Commercial Service Europe website: http://export.gov/europe/
U.S. Commercial Service Europe on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4885181
U.S. Commercial Service Europe on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Export2Europe
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