Digital Commissioner Gabriel and Julie send a letter to Minister Hancock on promoting girls in ICT

On the occasion of the Girls in ICT International Day (26 April), Julie co-signed a letter addressed by Digital Commissioner Gabriel to Minister Hancock on better promoting girls in ICT.

The letter reads:

Dear Minister Hancock,

We are collectively  making good progress  to complete the Digital Single Market and laying the foundation  for  a successful European digital future  spurred by innovative technology,  new  business  models  and  entrants,  stronger  competition  and lower barriers.

However,  we will not succeed in our ambitions unless we bridge the persistent  digital gender gap. The underrepresentation  of women in entrepreneurship,  economic leadership and the digital economy is a missed opportunity for Europe and is costing us dearly. The evidence of the digital gender gap is overwhelming.

Only 17%  of the 8 million digital  technology  experts  in the EU are women  in the labour market  where there is a severe shortage of skilled JCT professionals.  40%  of enterprises  recruiting JCT specialists report difficulties in getting qualified people. In cybersecurity  alone we expect a shortage of up to 1.8  million people globally by 2022 of which over 350,000   people in Europe.

That paradox  results in a loss of value for  Europe on all fronts:  economic, societal and  human   capital.    The  latest  study   on  Women   in  the  Digital  Age  that  the Commission published on 8 March 2018   shows that more women in digital jobs could create  an  annual  C16 billion  GDP boost  in  the  EU  and  improve   the  start-up environment,  as female  owned start-ups are more likely to be successful.

The reasons for  the limited participation  of women  and girls in the digital economy are lack of skills and their lower interest in STEM studies and JCT professions,   but also  skewed  perceptions,  stereotypes  and  lack  of  role models for  them  to  draw inspiration  from.   Often,  women  lack  confidence  to  embark  in  STEM fields   and professions.

Today, at the occasion of the "Girls in JCT International  Day", it is perfect timing  to commit for  concrete actions to redress this situation.  As the Commissioner in charge of the Digital portfolio, I want to work with you to change this. Drawing on my own responsibilities  and portfolio,   I have put forward   a strategy  addressing  the three major   causes  of  the  problem   and   reinf arced  it  with   actions   insofar   as  the Commission's  mandate  permits.  I want  to (1) combat stereotypes  and promote  role models  in the digital  economy; (2) invest in and promote  digital skills and education for  women;  and (3) facilitate  women's participation  in digital  entrepreneurship  and innovation.

However,  the Commission can only do so much.  In order to make a real  difference, we  need  engagement   and  actioat  all levels  and  by  all actors.  That  is why,  in partnership  with  the Bulgarian  Presidency,  the upcoming Austrian  presidency  and MEPs representing  the European  Parliament   we  call on you  to join forces  at  the European  and national  levels  in tackling the roots of the problem  across the EU in every Member State.

Looking  asome figures  available  (Eurostat),  the current  picture  shows  that  the United Kingdom  is doing relatively well compared  to other countries when it comes to STEM graduates.  There are 17  women  STEM graduates  per  1000    people  aged between 20   and 29  (13  in the EU).  However, as in most EU countries, there is still an urgent  need  to increase  the number  of women  JCT specialists.  Only 16%   of JCT specialists are women in the United Kingdom (17%  in the EU).

We need robust and systematic  measurement  to know whether we are succeeding or failing  in our efforts. I have asked my  services to define appropriate  indicators  to monitor progress  on the effective participation  of women  in the digital economy  at both European  and national  level which I would  like to publish  through an annual scoreboard.  This scoreboard will be published  later this year and I have asked my services to work with Member States' officials to report on actions taken by Member States in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) and national country reports which will be presented  in 2019.

Across Europe, there are lots of good initiatives proving  that the current situation can be changed for  the better.  I have asked  the Digital  Champions  to collect the most successful examples such as IT for SHE,  a Polish programme  which aims to increase the participation   of women  in  the high  tech industry  by  helping  talented female students  from   IT faculties   to  enter  the  labour  market.  Such  good practices  will already be discussed on 25-26    June in Sofia at the Digital Assembly.

In this context, I have also asked the forthcoming  Austrian  Presidency, to co-organize an informal  breakfast on 4 December 2018,    the day of the TTE Council to discuss the indicators which would feed into the annual scoreboard, the possibility  to set annual targets, as well as to identify good practice examples and role models addressing the strands  of the strategy  above.   I will also propose  that  the Digital Single Market Strategic Group which, since 2016,    has looked at the effectiveness of DSM actions and their  implementation   in Member  States,  prepares   the  discussions  at  the Digital Assembly  in Sofia on 25-26  June.

Please note that  we are also organising  a one day  conference on 19  June  2018    in Brussels  "More women  in digital: a strategy for  growth  and equality" where these issues can be discussed.  This event will bring together policy-makers,  young girls and boys, women entrepreneurs  and investors and stakeholders interested in the benefits of gender-quality  in the digital sector.

I invite you to send us any best practices,  role models or existing objectives in your country  by 10 June 2018 in view of the first  discussions at the June events in Brussels and in Sofia. Should you have any questions concerning the event, you are invited to contact  DG CONNECT.

I am,  together with  the Member  of the European  Parliament  co-signing  this letter, looking forward to your active participation  so we can shape an all-inclusive digital future for Europe.


Yours sincerely,

Mariya  Gabriel                                                                Julie Ward, MEP

Commissioner for Digital economy and societies