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Investing in women’s digital safety

Active listening, amplifying women's voices and work, and providing opportunities for professional development further contribute to championing support for women in tech beyond mere trends
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When it comes to digital safety, integrating digital platforms and technologies has become essential for promoting innovative approaches to peacebuilding and positive civic engagement, particularly among women, young women, and marginalised communities who have historically faced obstacles to participating in traditional public forums and decision-making arenas. These platforms are incredibly useful for women to express their perspectives on peace and security matters, providing an avenue for mediators, negotiators, and policymakers to have access to women’s views and ideologies about their own affairs. Additionally, the utilisation of emerging technologies holds promise for dissecting conflict trends and combating misinformation through narratives grounded in peace and inclusivity.

However, in addition to these advantages, the digital world presents gender-related risks, as women and girls face widespread online harassment and threats. Such experiences often result in self-censorship, leading to their being excluded from online communities, which hinders their ability to participate equally and take on leadership roles in peacebuilding and other areas of society. In light of this, it is crucial to create well-defined legislative frameworks and digital platforms that promote a gender-sensitive, safe, and positive online environment in order to guarantee the inclusion and well-being of all individuals (UN Women, 2024).

Conversations with cybersecurity experts such as Dr Iretioluwa Akerele (co-founder of CyBlack), Confidence Staveley (founder and executive director of the CyberSafe Foundation), and Gabriella Uwadiegwu (Senior Software Engineer at Spade, Founding Partner at Archangel Fund, and Co-Founder at Wetech) have shed light on insightfully actionable strategies to enhance women’s digital safety.

Dr Akerele emphasises the significance of cultivating a respectful culture within organisations, offering flexible work arrangements, ensuring equal access to opportunities, addressing the gender pay gap, and implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. According to her, these measures not only foster women’s development but also enrich the overall organisational environment which, in turn, supports women’s but also others’ overall well-being.

Similarly, Confidence Staveley highlights the significance of implementing practical measures to support women’s professional growth, namely mentorship programmes, networking opportunities, flexible working arrangements, affordable childcare, and tailored training and development programmes.

On her part, Gabriella Uwadiegwu stresses the necessity for businesses and organisations to forge partnerships with entities adept at understanding inclusion nuances in the tech industry. According to her, authentic commitment, tangible support through financial backing, hiring and investing in female talent, prioritising retention, and fostering a workplace culture that is safe and respectful are paramount. Active listening, amplifying women’s voices and work, and providing opportunities for professional development further contribute to championing support for women in tech beyond mere trends. These insights underscore the multi-faceted approach required to effectively invest in women’s digital safety.

These experts also shared valuable insights into the importance of investing in women’s digital safety, shedding light on practical measures for safeguarding online privacy and mitigating risks in the digital realm.

Dr Akerele emphasises the significance of mindfulness in navigating social media landscapes, advocating caution in sharing personal information and vigilance against online scams. She believes that speaking up against harassment and abuse not only empowers people but also contributes to a safer online environment.

Further, Confidence Staveley underscores the proactive approach to online privacy, highlighting the use of secure password managers and encrypted communication platforms. She advises women to stay informed about technological risks while leveraging digital advantages, emphasising the importance of robust passwords, multi-factor authentication, and VPNs for enhanced security.

Similarly, Gabriella Uwadiegwu stresses the importance of the adoption of (two-)factor authentication and the importance of being diligent in recognising and averting malicious attempts. Additionally, she advocates for continuous education on privacy limitations and the implementation of supplementary identity protection services.

While these insights underscore the proactive efforts women are making or should make to invest in digital safety, it’s essential to recognise that gender justice in the tech industry requires collective action. Businesses and organisations can take cues from these recommendations by prioritising robust privacy measures, promoting digital security education, and fostering inclusive and safe online environments for all stakeholders.

Wuraola Taiwo, the project manager for digital security at CcHUB (a pan-African innovation enabler), mentioned that the starting point for any gender-focused solution to injustice is first to acknowledge the existence of that injustice, then work quickly to spread awareness of the contributing factors and, in the long term, consider solutions. Digital security for women must be seen as a right and assured through the implementation of policies that prioritise protective measures by design. To ensure it remains a priority, the most affected party must be included in decision-making efforts. Hire women, make them aware, and see a change in attitude towards their protection in digital spaces.

It is clear that investing in women’s digital safety is of paramount importance, not only on a global scale but also in Africa. As digital platforms become increasingly central to civic engagement and peacebuilding efforts, it is essential to acknowledge and address the unique risks faced by women, young women, and marginalised communities online.  By emphasising the importance of gender sensitivity in legislative frameworks, investing in training and development programmes, and ensuring women’s voices are heard in cybersecurity policymaking, businesses and organisations can play a role in creating a digital environment that is both inclusive and secure. In today’s digital age, prioritising women’s digital safety is crucial for creating strong and prosperous communities. It is not just a matter of fairness and equality; it is a fundamental necessity.

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