Women should be independent financially and ICT offers plenty of opportunities, writes Neelie Kroes
Friday was international women’s day. For one day in the year women take the spotlight. In kitchens, underneath glass ceilings, at the top of businesses, as heads of families, rich or poor, women everywhere are fighting for recognition.
Were I a cynical person, I would say this day serves as an excuse to forget about women the other 364 days.
A job for life or a future as a housewife, that was what women had to look forward to in the old days. Now women, in this part of the world at least, have plenty of opportunities, providing they are flexible enough. With the present life expectancy, women have a working life of fifty years. Fifty years full of change, challenges and opportunities taking the place of the predictability of yore.
Marriage and pregnancy no longer spell the end of a career. Still, it seems to be a female characteristic to bypass personal preference and follow other people’s expectations. Women then discover they have become completely dependent on their partners and stay with them not for love but for money.
They reach a certain age and realise they are stuck: the children have left home, employers and husbands are switching to younger models and there they are, unable to leave because of money.
This is why every young woman should equip herself with the tools it takes to ensure her financial, social and spiritual independence. Choosing to have a family is important but it need not determine your life.
I grabbed every chance that presented itself to become independent. Fifty years ago, this was quite exceptional. But today, thanks in part to ICT, things are very different. Women can work from home, set up a business, educate themselves, stay in touch. Digital skills promote independence and help women to emancipate themselves.
Sadly, few European women are ICT-minded. With a million digital vacancies by 2015, women are heavily outnumbered in the sector. The image of the ICT nerd is obsolete but apparently it still frightens women.
And it is women with their pragmatic approach, their communication skills and their ability to multi-task who should be successful in this digital era. Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Marissa Mayer at Yahoo and IBM’s Ginni Rometty prove as much. As do Claire Boonstra at Layar, Coca Cola CIO Sabine Everaet and CEO Saskia van Uffelen at Bull Benelux closer to home.
Some research even suggests that tech companies led by women are doing better by 35%. All it takes is a mentality change in society and in women themselves. We need more role models and initiatives like Greenlight for Girls and Rail Girls.
Many women’s talents remain underused. Women are suffering and so is the economy. The chances are there if women want to grab them. If not for love, for money.
Neelie Kroes is Euro Commissioner for the Digital Agenda
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