This week, I have the honor of attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC Women and the Economy Forum in Beijing, China. I’m looking forward to my visit and having important conversations on a topic I am very passionate about—using mobile technology to empower women globally. Many women in emerging regions have the ideas and ambitions needed to succeed, but lack access to professional development, education, technology, networks and capital. Mobile broadband provides a way to address these needs, and enables women to participate in the robust, flourishing mobile-enabled economy.
APEC is an important forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. The United States is one of APEC’s 21 members, known as member economies. All APEC member economies agree to empower women and promote their full economic participation on an equal footing.
Through my work with Qualcomm Wireless Reach, we have implemented nearly 100 programs in more than 35 countries and have had the opportunity—through public-private collaborations—to observe how the impact of mobile technology on women in emerging markets is transformative, opening up a tremendous wealth of content and information.
We are firm believers in the idea that empowering and enabling women through access to technology benefits communities worldwide. This is so important to us that we commissioned a study that looks at the role mobile can play in women’s economic empowerment.
The study is entitled “Transforming Women’s Livelihoods Through Mobile Broadband,” and illustrates the impact and opportunity of mobile technology on women. Based on more than 1,000 interviews with working women across China, Nigeria, Brazil, Indonesia and India, one of the study’s key findings is that 80 percent of working women use their mobile phone for work and consider their phone an important tool to help provide for themselves and their families.
The report concluded that no matter where a working woman may be in the world, she has two core needs for mobile broadband, or Internet access on her phone: real-time connectivity with her coworkers, clients and family; and access to information.
At Qualcomm, we understand that it’s important to train women on the benefits of mobile technology because it is contributing to and has incredible potential to improve women’s livelihoods and well-being. Women surveyed in low- and middle-income countries said they believe owning a mobile phone helps them lead more secure, connected and productive lives.
As a company rooted in technology, we also see the importance of educating girls and women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, commonly referred to as STEM. Even though women represent more than half of the overall U.S. workforce, they are severely underrepresented in STEM fields—holding less than one quarter of computing and technical jobs.1
For this reason, Qualcomm is a lead partner in the Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) Program, which is a public/private collaboration that aims to build a healthy pipeline of girls and women in STEM education and Information Communication Technology, or ICT careers.
Mobile communication technologies truly remove barriers to modernization and create new ways of communicating, doing business and delivering services—ultimately allowing women the opportunity to increase their incomes and improve their communities.
I look forward to the engaging discussions that are sure to occur at the APEC Women and Economy Forum and to furthering collective action around accelerating the impact that mobile broadband can have on women’s lives across the globe.
1 National Center for Women and Information Technology, University of Colorado, Boulder