Gender equality is essential for a country’s growth. This means people of all genders must be fully empowered to contribute to the advancement of society and the economy. One way to build gender equity is to help close the digital gender gap, or the imbalance between the number of men and women who can access the internet. The gender gap is widest in developing countries and regions where access to digital tools runs into a variety of difficulties.
A 2020 research study from the World Wide Web Foundation examined the consequences of the digital gender gap, and found that “men are 21% more likely to be online than women globally.” Consequently, the study asserted that governments in more than 30 countries lost an estimated $126 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) because women were unable to contribute to the digital economy. If these governments don’t take action to ensure women have equal access to the internet, the study further reported that they could lose $500 billion in GDP by 2025.
There are multiple barriers that prevent women from being as ‘online’ as men, including access to funds and cultural issues regarding privacy that create barriers discouraging women from having an online presence. While it’s clear governments should take steps to build an inclusive digital future, according to The Guardian, “more than 40% of countries had no meaningful policies or programs to expand women’s access to the internet.”
“[…] closing the digital gender gap should be one of the top priorities,” Boutheina Guermazi, the World Bank’s director of digital development said in response to the report. She intimated that leaders hoping to bolster their countries economy should look into the issue.
Robert F. Smith’s Work to Support Women in Higher Education
As a life-long philanthropist, Robert F. Smith has contributed to a number of organizations and institutions that support the upward mobility of women.
A Cornell University graduate, Smith made a personal donation of $20 million to his alma mater in 2016. This gift was matched by Fund II Foundation, a nonprofit granting organization of which Smith is the founding director and President. An additional $10 million donation was made by Smith to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program, which supports Black and women engineering students who are pursuing their master’s degree at Cornell Tech.
Finally, Smith is a supporter of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit dedicated to getting more women into portfolio management and executive level positions within the asset management industry. The program includes an intensive summer education program and unique internship opportunities. The program’s founder, Seema R. Hingorani, started the organization with the vision of having 30% of the world’s investable assets managed by women by 2030. Since its creation, Girls Who Invest has taught more than 1,400 students, and 75% of its alumni have found work in the tech industry. Vista Equity Partners, the investment firm founded by Smith, partners with Girls Who Invest providing internships and funding.
Read more about Smith’s efforts to support women in higher education.