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ERIA Hosts Webinar on Women in STEM and the Digital Economy from the Perspective of ASEAN

5 November 2020

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Jakarta, 5 November 2020: ERIA hosted the MSMEs Talk #8 ‘Women in STEM and the Digital Economy – The ASEAN perspective’. The second webinar of the series dedicated to the issue of women’s economic empowerment was organised under ERIA’s Strategy and Partnership Programme, funded by Australia. It has attracted more than 120 participants from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. The topic of women’s economic empowerment in the digital economy is a growing area of work for ERIA’s Strategy and Partnership Programme.

In her opening remarks, Dr Giulia Ajmone Marsan, ERIA’s Director of Strategy and Partnership, stated that women tend to be less represented in Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and jobs globally and across ASEAN. She added that despite the fact that ASEAN is one of the regions with the fastest-growing digital economies in the world, more women need to access the opportunity offered by the digital transformation. The majority of women in science across ASEAN work on health and social sciences rather than technology, engineering, and math. Thus, the importance of increasing women’s access to STEM education and jobs is a key step towards inclusive economic development in ASEAN. 

Four speakers shared their views and perspectives: 

  • Chan Yin Yin, COO & Co-Founder, BotDistrikt (Singapore)
  • Mazlita Mat Hassan, Co-Founder, RECQA.com (Malaysia) 
  • Kingkeo Doungsavanh, Director, Data Com (Laos PDR)
  • Liza Noonan, ASEAN Director, CSIRO 

The main messages derived from the discussion were:

  • The importance of gender diversity in the workforce to promote innovation and inclusive digital economic development, which is supported by a growing body of evidence and research.
  • The importance of providing platforms, access to education, and training to promote women’s empowerment in STEM and digital economy activity. 
  • The need for technology to bridge the gap between the urban-rural divide, as women in rural areas are at risk to continue to be worse off in the transition towards digital economies.
  • The role of both the government and the private sector to support initiatives ensuring gender diversity in the workforce. 

Ms Mazlita Mat Hassan, CEO, and Co-Founder of RECQA.com from Malaysia, develops RECQA.com as a platform for sharing collective knowledge with communities and organisation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Malaysia. She noted the importance of technology to reach out to marginalised groups, for instance, to bridge the gap between teachers and students or urban and rural areas. She also mentioned the importance of promoting gender diversity, as e-commerce and the start-up ecosystem remains dominated by men. She also mentioned the importance of making girls and women feel accepted in these male-dominated environments by projecting an image of diversity and inclusion.

Ms Chan Yin Yin, COO & Co-Founder, BotDistrikt from Singapore, developed an affordable chatbot platform targeted at MSMEs in Singapore. She started her journey in technology with hands-on experience in e-commerce and the digital economy. She highlighted the obstacles girls and women face, in particular the existing stereotypes about women's participation in STEM, in Asia as elsewhere. She highlighted the importance of having a good role model, mentor, and determination for women to participate in digital economic activity. 

Ms Kingkeo Doungsavanh, Director, Data Com from Lao PDR shared her experience about how when she began her career, the ICT sector was not an easy environment for women. She mentioned that most women in Lao PDR, particularly in rural areas, still work in the agriculture sector and do not have access to training enabling them to have a job in the digital economy. Therefore, she highlighted the importance of providing access to education and training for upskilling and reskilling female workers combined with better access to the internet to promote women's participation in the digital economy. She also highlighted the importance of government initiatives, for instance, the provision of STEM training for women and youth in Lao PDR. 

Ms Liza Noonan, ASEAN Director of CSIRO, Australia’s science agency, explained how the agency is strongly supporting gender equality in science and technology, including across ASEAN, by implementing several initiatives to promote gender diversity in STEM and the digital economy. She described CSIRO’s initiative ‘SAGE’ (Science Australia Gender Equity) and how diversity, including gender diversity, is associated with more innovation and better scientific results, as diverse teams can look at problems from different perspectives. She highlighted several key factors and initiatives to empower women and promote gender diversity including the provision of STEM platforms for women to interact and networks and find role models as well as promoting women ‘STEM ambassadors’ to become highly visible role models. 

During the Q&A session, themes that emerged included i) various country -level initiatives to promote women’s participation in STEM and digital economy; ii) challenges and solutions to empower women from the perspective of the urban-rural divide; iii) the importance of all firms, large and small, to empower women and create diverse teams.

MSME Talk News and Recording

  1. MSME Talk #1: ASEAN MSMEs in a COVID-19 World
  2. MSME Talk #2: Riding on the E-commerce Bandwagon: 2nd ERIA MSME Series Talk
  3. MSME Talk #3: ERIA Hosted Webinar on Overcoming GVC Disruptions for MSMEs
  4. MSME Talk #4: ERIA Hosts Webinar on Women Entrepreneurship Amidst COVID-19
  5. MSME Talk #5: Sustainability Practices for MSMEs in a COVID-19 World and Beyond
  6. MSME Talk #6: ERIA hosted the MSMEs Talk #6 - Upskilling to Succeed- ASEAN MSMEs in the Digital Economy
  7. MSME Talk #7: ERIA Holds Webinar on Agility and Resilience of Micro-Businesses Amidst and After the Pandemic

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