Mar 7, 2014

International Women’s Day – one day is not enough

2014 marks the 103rd International Women’s Day. What began as a socialist political event in Europe is now celebrated world-wide, and endorsed by organisations as wide-ranging as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Ukrainian feminist group, Femen. It remains as vital as ever to showcase women’s manifold social, political and economic achievements, but it is also crucial that the campaign for gender equality is loudly and energetically sustained.

Three recent examples underline the need for continuing vigilance against sexism and action for more egalitarian, more respectful gender relations both off- and online. An advertisement campaign entitled “The Autocomplete Truth”, recently run by UN Women, used actual Google searches to reveal widespread sexism and discrimination against women. It placed the search results over the mouths of women’s photographs, effectively silencing them, and makes for sobering viewing (on the web at; on Twitter at #womenshould).

This week, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency launched the most extensive survey yet undertaken on violence against women, which showed staggering numbers of women having experienced some form of violence right across the EU, including in those countries we consider to be most gender-equal.

At the same time, prominent women campaigners have recently revealed their shocking experiences of online bullying and abuse. Everyone should be able to use the web without being subjected to this type of thing.

Whatever the medium of communication, women’s voices must not be silenced. This message is one of the most important that International Women’s Day can convey. But International Women’s Day must also be a day when women, and men, celebrate the respectful, peaceful and progressive acts that are done to advance women’s and human rights. For advancing gender equality and celebrating the gains made so far, one day per year is not enough.

By Juliet Webster, Director, Gender and ICT Programme, IN3

Dec 3, 2013

Steve Jobs was a woman because he bit the apple!

By Marta Aymerich,  Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC).

Apparently, from our very “creation”, we have a special affinity for this fruit. Or at least, this is what we have been told. As we have also been told, though more subtly, that studying a technical degree course is not for women. Both things are far from the truth. They are just ways of making us see gender as preconditioning us for certain tasks and attitudes, and not for others. In reality what happens is that we end up being preconditioned –but not because of genetics, but because of culture. From birth, we are taught that there is a colour for girls and a colour for boys, and later, that there are toys for girls and toys for boys. And, subsequently, we end up believing that there are studies for girls and studies for boys. And from here it is a short jump to think that there are more suitable men for positions of responsibility in academia than suitable women. More women than men graduate from university in Catalonia today, but this has not led to a substantial change in the proportion of women in academic positions. This is partly  because we have grown up thinking that we do not have the right predisposition. Well, I do not believe this. And I myself am proof. I do not have to believe that technical degrees are not for women either; nor are we particularly drawn to biting apples. Or are we? If you think about it, maybe that is what we have to do. Jobs chose an apple with a bite out of it for the company’s logo and he broke the mould. 
«Maybe, and I speculate, he chose it as a ground-breaking symbol, with the image in mind of the first person, a woman, who is able to overcome the status quo.»  
Indeed, you often have to break the rules to make progress. Especially if what’s at stake is ensuring we do not lose so much talent.

Nov 4, 2013

Filling the gap with Steve Jobs

By Dóra Groó, president of the Association of Hungarian Women in Science.

From my national and international view, I can say that in order to change the traditional and pre-modern processes and stereotypes — in every part of the life ― we always need good practices, which we can use to underpin the necessity of our aims and tools; and role models who can prove that nothing is impossible, thus legitimating our work. 

Today in the ICT and in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) sector, women need to be more mentored, encouraged, inspired and supported, because these sectors need more female talents, otherwise the industry won’t be sustainable and renewable. A lot must be done before we got the talents. 
 «We need role models who can prove that nothing is impossible, thus legitimating our work» 
We should start to support and encourage the girls — from childhood through the high school years and finally the university ― not to be afraid of math and informatics. Imagine if Steve Jobs had been a woman. People would say: “Hey girl! If Ms Jobs did it, you can also do it! Go and code that robot!”. 

If Steve Jobs had been a woman, we could break the glass ceiling and fill the gap in one second.

Oct 1, 2013

A visit of Stephie Jobs to Shenzhen

This month's blog post has a different focus from most of our others, because it concerns the working conditions in Foxconn, Apple's main supplier, and the terrible injuries inflicted on China's (largely rural migrant) workforce. Qiu raises the question of whether a female Steve Jobs would tackle this horrendous human attrition. So, this is not so much about redressing the gender imbalance in professional computing work, more about asserting and protecting the human rights of computing assembly workers. It is a devastating read.

By Jack Linchuan Qiu, associate professor, School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Had Steve Jobs been a woman — let’s call her Stephie — I'd take her to the Second People's Hospital of Shenzhen (Guangdong Province, China), a place I've been visiting once a month — sometimes once a week — in the past year. There lies Tingzhen Zhang, who lost his left brain in an industrial accident at Foxconn.

Foxconn is Apple's main supplier, employing 1.4 million workers in China alone. It manufactures about half the world's electronics each year. If China is the "world's factory", then Foxconn is the "electronics workshop of the world".

Stephie must go to the hospital because Shenzhen is where most of her gadgets are put together; because she must have watched the Mike Daisy show, at least its online version, and because she might wonder what the heck is going on there. She must go, as I need a woman to talk to Tingzhen's relatives.

Tingzhen, like most his peers, is from the rural hinterland. Due to work injury at Foxconn, he now walks with difficulty and he only has the intelligence of a one-year-old. His whole family has come to take care of him, find out what happened, and obtain justice. Every time I visited, his father kept talking to me: what a wonderful person his son used to be, how outrageously Foxconn treated them, why he thought the local officials were sympathetic, but incompetent.

«A conversation between Tingzhen’s sister and Stephie Jobs may well inspire a whole new world beyond capitalism, a better world for workers and for humanity»

His mother and sister seldom talked to me though, likely because I'm a man. They smiled, brought me water, never tried to interrupt dad. But I know they need people listening to them, talk to them, as well. A few months ago, driven by despair caused by Foxconn's refusal to help, Tingzhen's sister, Hongling, even tried to commit suicide.

— "Suicide?!" 
— "Yes, Stephie." I’d say. "Foxconn is known for its workers killing themselves, as much as it's known for making your Apple products. Thirteen people jumped from tall buildings in 8 months in 2010. Never before had this happened in the entire history of industrial capitalism, anywhere in the world."
— "Hongling, I'm sorry." 
— "No, you don't...", would reply Hongling after a long pause. "You have no idea how helpless we were." 
— "I’m really sorry. Can you tell me more? Is there anything I can do?"

At this point, I'd leave, dragging Tingzhen's dad with me. He and I need to manage an on-line campaign, designed with our old-fashioned masculine impulse, to help the family sustain their legal battle. If they win, it will be the first time Foxconn China ever gets defeated in a labor court. That may mark a new chapter for Foxconn, and for Apple.

Yet winning this case is perhaps not as important as the conversation between Hongling and Stephie. I hope her mother can join them, too. The results from that conversation may not just bring about a new company or two. They may well inspire a whole new world beyond capitalism, a better world for workers and for humanity.

Sisters of the world, think different.

Tingzhen Zhang before and after his injury at Foxconn. The company still withholds the ID card he wore around his neck, making it difficult for his family to establish his employment relationship with Foxconn Shenzhen.

Sep 2, 2013

Could Apple have been founded by a woman?

By Inés Sánchez de Madariaga, director, Women and Science Unit, Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness

Would Apple, as we know it, exist if there had not been a Steve Jobs? Probably not, but perhaps we would still enjoy the same type of devices because, as Sánchez de Madariaga says, innovation comes when its time has arrived. Could have this "twin" tech company have been created by a woman? Again, probably not, at least in the time Steve created it, but it seems that now things are starting to change. GenderSTE COST action chairperson, Sánchez de Madariaga talks about all these questions in the video below. She kindly agreed to be recorded during a visit to Barcelona.

«In the 80's, when Steve Jobs started working on Apple, a woman wouldn't have been given credit for such innovative approaches»