Emerson College, Boston, hosted the Global Gender Advocacy Workshop on 16 and 17 October 2019, focusing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their connection to gender equality.
This international event addressed an array of issues: Gender and Institutional Legitimacy, Institutional Equity & Closing Global Gender Gaps, Gender & Leadership, and Combatting Marginality.
Minna Horowitz of St. John’s Institute for International Communication spoke about the need to revitalize global debates about gender, media and communication technologies – and related policies:
In 1995, the Fourth UN World Conference on Women resulted in the so-called Beijing Platform that laid out two Strategic Objectives: To increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication, and to promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.
In the past decade, digital communication has taken a central role in most facets of citizens’ everyday lives, globally. The rules through which digital spaces and new technologies are regulated have become an increasingly important topic also within the UN community. However, 25 years after the Beijing Platform the debates and policy interventions around gender equality and the media have lost their prominence.
Gendering global media policy and digital rights debates are crucial for the advancement of gender equality. Communication and digital tools — from awareness-raising campaigns to news coverage of politics to mobile banking — all matter for SDGs, and for gender equality, directly and indirectly. We need to start to take old and new challenges of the media and digital communications seriously, again.
The two-day workshop also featured two Roundtable Super Sessions with seasoned professionals who shared about practices of working for more equal status for women in contexts that have traditionally been male-dominated.
The Power & Politics Super Session included, among others Jossie Valentin, Senator Warren’s Campaign State Director and Jane Rayburn, Vice President of EMC Research that focuses on polling and other types of political campaign research. The Session on Gender & Entrepreneurship featured a number of distinguished panelists, including Elaine Chen, Startup Veteran, and MIT Senior Lecturer as well as Tricia Young, Founder of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship.
Such a diverse and multi-dimensional workshop is hard to summarize in a sentence or two. However, it clearly showed how gender divisions and related inequalities persist: in academia, in business, in policies and politics. The solution is multi-layered and needs to happen in different spheres. But one aspect that was highlighted in every panel was the importance of realizing one’s self-worth.
The keynote speaker, Linda Peek Schacht – the first US female press secretary and the former VP of Coca Cola – noted it perhaps most succinctly in her speech:
Schacht posited that there are three questions that need answers for a community to be born: 1. Who am I? 2. Who are we? 3. What is our ultimate goal?
She remarked that women tend to be very good at creating a community and working toward a common goal. They often forget to think who they are as individuals; what are their unique experiences, talents, and passions that they bring to the table? While we need to work toward gender equality together the change starts with us individuals and our self-worth.