As we leave behind Girls in ICT day for another year, I reflect on the great opportunity and visibility it gives to the movement of women and girls in the technology sector. However, the day is also a reminder of how much work there is still to do.
Microsoft has long been involved in the efforts to increase diversity within our industry and in particular to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech. Through initiatives like Go Global we are committed to encouraging women to strive for positions of influence and create strong female role models within the industry. The very spirit of this commitment is the recognition that the fight for diversity and equality is a journey that requires constant self-assessment and recommitment.
Girls in ICT day brought to light stories of inspiring women, girls and communities that are working to close the digital divide. Young women like Roxana Rugina from Romania who founded her own association to help share her knowledge of technology with the next generation.
But despite the great strides that are being made, Microsoft is keenly aware of the significant obstacles that remain. The European Commission estimates that women represent only 30% of the approximately 7 million people working in information and communication technology. And this despite the vital contributions we are making at the highest levels of the sector.
Nowhere is the scale and importance of our contribution more apparent than in the domain of data protection and privacy.
It is increasingly clear that Europe is on the cusp of another industrial revolution. Mobile and cloud technologies, big data and the Internet of Things offer unparalleled opportunities for driving economic growth and tackling the societal challenges of the coming decades. However is it equally clear that we have not established the fundamental levels of trust that are required for these innovations to succeed. Put simply, people will not use technology they do not trust.
Microsoft has a crucial role to play in building this trust. Our customers expect us to build technologies that include strong privacy protections and to act as responsible stewards of their data. And we are committed to delivering those protections.
However we are aware that our efforts alone are not enough.
A strong and effective regulatory environment that promotes transparent and responsible practices is crucial to the success of the digital economy in Europe. Building this safe and secure digital environment calls for a flexible, collaborative approach. Increasingly this approach is being driven by pioneering women, who are playing a major role in advancing pragmatic solutions.
Internationally, women such as Ann Cavoukian have led the way in developing the standards that define our approach to privacy. The Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute at Ryerson University, Dr. Cavoukian is best known for her creation of Privacy by Design, a unanimously adopted international framework for privacy and data protection which has now been translated into 37 languages.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the use of practices such as privacy-by-design and discourse across the public and private sectors has been built over the best part of a decade by women like Anna Buchta, Head of Litigation and Institutional Policy at the European Data Protection Supervisor’s office, or Caroline Louveaux, Managing Counsel at MasterCard Europe. Others, like Bojana Bellamy President of Hunton & Williams LLP’s Centre for Information Policy Leadership – a preeminent global information policy think-tank located in Washington, D.C. and London – or Georgina Kon, counsel at Linklaters specialised in privacy and technology issues, are promoting pragmatic approaches and creative solutions to demanding customer situations. All of this is leading to a fair, transparent and reality-based implementation of EU and international data protection rules.
These women are leaders in their fields and demonstrate the potential for innovation and excellence that lies in a diverse workforce. It is crucial that we continue to support them and to work towards the goals of diversity and equality that initiatives such as Go Global champion. This is the only way we will build a new generation of women in leadership who can drive “accountable innovation” in the tech industry.