Podcast: New gen feminists using digital skills as a megaphone

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Catarina Furtado

When people speak of the ‘glass ceiling’, they’re usually talking about the invisible barriers women face when advancing in the workplace. This episode of the Next Stage explores the digital glass ceiling.

This is a wide-ranging topic covering everything from gender-based harassment and hate speech on social media to gender inequality in access to technology (especially in developing nations).

“I’m here for the millions of women and girls around the globe who have voices but whose voices cannot be heard …I really do think that technology can help them fulfil their potential,” said Portuguese actor and United Nations Ambassador Catarina Furtado.

There is hope, says Catarina, “there is a new generation of feminists – both young and older women – with digital skills, and they use it as a megaphone. They have moved from the streets to the web to speak out”.

Digital access is essential to guarantee women’s rights, says Catarina. In some countries, girls are four times less likely to have internet access than boys.

These problems are exacerbated when you bring intersectionality into it says Sofia Nunes, co-founder and head of diversity at cloud banking platform Mambu. For women of colour, who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, or who have a disability, it exacerbates these problems, she says.

While equal access to technology and the internet is a priority, there is also the issue of online abuse. A 2021 Pew Research Center report found that a similar number of men and women reported online harassment. However, men were far more likely to report harassment due to expressing political beliefs, and to report that this harassment did not particularly bother them.

Women, especially those who are part of the LGBTQ community, were far more likely to report online harassment in the form of sexual harassment and stalking, and to report feeling extremely or very upset as a result.

“I think discrimination and different forms of violence women face online and offline are similar. We’re talking about sexual harassment, potential rape, online sexism, gender-based violence and bullying,” says Catarina.

She went on to say that the problem with online harassment is that it plays out on a global stage but the victims are left to cope with the trauma, often alone, and with a subsequent impact on their mental health. It’s widespread and “with an impact that we still have to evaluate and study”, she added.

Catarina Furtado, and cloud banking platform Mambu’s co-founder and head of diversity, Sofia Nunes, were in conversation with MIT Tech Review journalist Charlotte Jee on Centre Stage at Web Summit 2021.

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Main image: Eóin Noonan/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

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