Baroness Goudie Blog: August Newsletter
This month I want to share two key topics with you. Firstly, "The Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Brief", which provide key insights on why combatting child marriage needs to be at the top of the global agenda. Secondly, an article from our frequent contributor Stephenie Foster on why more women in AI is key for progress and global gender equality.
Finally, it was with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Kofi Annan, an incredible man who did so much good work. Below I have included the words his family shared, which so eloquently captured his immense impact.
I hope you have had some opportunity to recharge over the summer months and we can all go into September with a renewed energy to tackle the many challenges that the world is facing.
The Impact of Child Brides
According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), 100 million girls will be married before the age of 18 in the coming decade. Every day there are 41,000 child brides across the world.
I was first introduced to this horrific injustice by a dear friend Mabel Van Oranje @MabelvanOranje and her work through ‘Girls not Brides’, this sort of leadership is the only way to tackle this very serious global issue.
This year an important report has been developed by ICRW, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and The World Bank on this issue - “The Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Brief” This clearly highlights the economic and social impacts of child marriage.
I hope that the extracts that I have taken from this report will encourage you to fight globally against child marriage, not only in your country, but also around the world.
The key drivers for child marriage are:
- Lack of education and employment
- Parents that are eager to receive higher dowry payments for younger girls - sometimes to pay off their family debts
- A product of cultures that devalue women and girls and discriminate against them
- “Love marriages,” which often stem from adolescents’ desires for sexual relationships in countries where sex outside of marriage is not culturally permitted
Economic impact of child marriages:
The economic cost related to child marriage can been seen from its impact on fertility and population growth. By contributing to larger families and, in turn, population growth, child marriage delays the demographic dividend that can come from reduced fertility and investments in education. The associated cost could run in the trillions of dollars globally (in purchasing power parity) between now and 2030.
Child marriage also has a substantial impact on women’s potential earnings and productivity. Child marriage curtails education, which then reduces women’s expected earnings in adulthood. It also can curb their influence within the household and limit their bargaining power. By ending child marriage, countries could increase their national earnings on average by 1%.
What does child marriage do to a girl/woman:
Child marriage is driven by poverty and has many effects on girls' health: increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria, and death during childbirth, and obstetric fistulas. Girls' offspring are at increased risk for premature birth and death as neonates, infants, or children.
Girls who marry early are denied their childhood. Once married, these girls have little or no access to education and economic opportunities, and thus their families are more likely to continue the cycle of poverty.
Areas with child brides:
Countries with the highest rate of child marriages
- Central African Republic
- Burkina Faso
- South Sudan
These are the highest rates, however, child marriage is a global problem.
Key References to find out more:
- Economic Impacts of Child Marriage: Global Synthesis Brief
- International Centre for Research on Women
- Girls not Brides
- The World Bank -The rippling economic impacts of child marriage
This is a critical issue that needs to be addressed, not just because of the individual impact it has on children, but also the long-term economic and equality challenges it produces. It needs to be on the agenda of all governments to tackle and we must campaign for nothing less than a zero policy.
More Women in AI = More Inclusive Tech
Every day and in every way, we depend on technology. It helps us access information and each other, and organize our business and personal lives. But, there are increasing concerns about technology: how it impacts privacy; how the designers of tech tools (spoiler alert: mostly white men) embed gender and other norms in what they design; and, how technology perpetuates offensive and dangerous offline behavior.
Certainly, there is differential access to the internet. Women globally have less access than men, and even in the U.S., where overall internet access rates are fairly equal, women with fewer resources were 50 percent less likely than men to be online, and 30–50 percent less likely to use the internet for economic and political empowerment.
Technology is a powerful connector. It is imperative that women and girls can use technology to fully access education and financial services, grow their businesses, and communicate with family and friends. At the same time, it is critical that technology reflects the lives of women and girls, and does not replicate offline harassment and gender-based violence.
In order to do that, we must increase the number of women — across the globe — who design technology. Women like these. Most artificial intelligence (AI), and the programs that utilize AI, are created by (white) men. Those programs and apps will be different than those created by a more diverse group. For example, a recent article documented that “smart speakers” like Alexa and Home have a hard time understanding commands by those who speak English with an accent.
Jobs designing technology must be filled by a broad range of people. Effective problem solving occurs when people with diverse voices, viewpoints and life experiences are involved. Research published by the Harvard Business Reviewsupports this approach, finding that diversity, both inherent and acquired, helps drive innovation.
Yet barriers limit the kinds of people who enter and remain in these fields; women, especially, are often left out of the talent pool. A report by the American Association of University Women found that, in the U.S., 80 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs are in engineering and computer science, but women comprise only 12 percent of the engineering and 26 percent of the computing workforce.
How can we make progress? Here are three steps:
- Be purposeful in efforts to attract women: In the U.S., women earn about 20 percent of engineering degrees and 16 percent of computer science degrees. Key universities are increasing these numbers. According to a 2015 federal study, women earned over 40 percent of engineering degrees at schools like Franklin Olin, MIT, Yale, Howard, George Washington, Harvey Mudd, Brown, and Southern Methodist University. At Harvey Mudd, the percentage of women graduating with degrees in computer science increased from 12 percent to approximately 40 percent in five years. The school revised its introductory computing course and split it into two levels divided by experience, provided research opportunities for undergraduates after freshman year, and exposed young women students to the field by attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference.
- If you can see it, you can be it: Across the globe, STEM camps bring young women together to learn and to encourage interest in STEM careers. In the U.S., young women engineers have started a social media campaign #ilooklikeanengineer to change gender stereotypes about what an engineer should look like. Helping women succeed in STEM jobs is equally important. The U.S. State Department’s TechWomen program supports women from over 20 countries, and pairs them with an American mentor at companies across Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Promote STEM’s role in problem solving: When schools promote the impact that STEM jobs can have on solving problems, women are more attracted to those fields of study. Technology is more than a gadget; it’s a tool to solve pressing issues. To this end, Google Cloud’s Dr. Fei-Fei Li co-founded AI4All, an organization to cultivate diversity in the AI field through education, mentorship, and early exposure to its potential for social good.
Collectively, technology needs to help all of us. Taking these steps gets us closer to that goal.
Remembering Kofi Annan
It is with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Kofi Annan. An inspiring individual that achieved so much. He set a great example through his leadership of the United Nations and much more. His family shared the below words which I think capture his life and impact so well. We must learn from him.