“Donna è Innovazione” starts the new session with This extraordinary interview with Elissa Ann Golberg, Canadian ambassador to Rome but above all a dynamic woman: her life experience is a point of reference for every woman who wants to destroy the glass ceiling. She is “optimistic and pragmatic”. The digital innovation is a tool at the service of equality. Fighting prejudice in the digital world is a priority. After meeting Elissa Ann Golberg I immediately felt the need to share her vision, because she is an example of how to make a difference in the world: she starts from Canada, crosses difficult regions such as Afghanistan and arrives in our beautiful Rome. She represents perfectly my project “Donna è Innovazione“. Enjoy the reading
Who is Elissa Ann Golberg?
A career diplomat and public servant, currently Canada’s Ambassador to the Republics of Italy, Albania and San Marino, High Commissioner to Malta, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Food Agencies. I have been a pathbreaker, committed to innovation and excellence. I previously served as Assistant Deputy Minister for Strategic Policy and Partnerships for Development Innovation, Ambassador to the United Nations and Conference on Disarmament (Geneva), the Representative of Canada in Kandahar (Afghanistan) and helped create Canada’s international Stabilization and Reconstruction team managing various conflicts and natural disasters.
I am a first generation Canadian, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and immigrant, and wanted to serve my country from an early age. When not at work, I am a cyclist, runner and hiker as well as part-time gardener and photographer, sharing these interests with my husband, friends and family. And last but not least, I am a “pragmatic optimist”.
Women and digital transformation, will this revolution speed up the achievement of equality?
Certainly the digital transformation has the potential to facilitate the achievement of gender equality in some fields, and by potentially removing some of the traditional barriers to women’s empowerment. But it is not a panacea. Technology can not, in and of itself, accelerate gender equality. It is an enabler, and so must be accompanied by a change in the mindset of communities and societies, whereby equality – in all its forms – is understood as a human right and thus the default due to the benefits it brings to all.
Digital technologies can enable greater access to healthcare, education and skills development, especially in remote or underserved areas; they may offer opportunities for women and girls to participate in remote work, providing flexible work arrangements; they may allow women and girls to start an on-line business and achieve greater economic empowerment; and thanks to digital financial services women and girls in some countries can obtain greater economic independence, while on-line job portal provide transparent information on compensation that can help reduce the pay-gaps.
Significantly, new technologies can also enable women to amplify their voices, connecting with partners and allies to advocate for gender equality.
At the same time, digital technologies have generated new threats for women, including risks of online harassment and violence. These technologies may also reinforce existing biases if not intentionally accounted for and addressed. They are a tool that must be accompanied by broader systemic change.
Is your Nation particularly active in this context? What actions or policies do you appreciate the most?
Through its domestic and feminist Foreign Policies, the Government of Canada has supported deliberate actions and inclusive policies so women can benefit equally from digital technologies, complimented by efforts in the private sector. The goal is for the digital revolution to truly become a catalyst for empowerment and positive change. This includes efforts to increase digital literacy for women and tackle barriers related to affordability, infrastructure, and cultural biases. Devoting attention to promoting girl’s participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), increasing women’s leadership and representation in technology sectors, and challenging gender norms and biases both online and offline have all been areas of necessary focus.
More broadly, Canadians have been at the cutting edge of the digital revolution, embracing advances in technology and digital transformation in various sectors. We are thought leaders on Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security and Robotics.
The Canadian government has implemented initiatives in the last few years such as the Digital Charter and the Innovation Superclusters Initiative that aim to foster innovation, promote digital skills development, and support the growth of digital industries in Canada.
The cities of Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal, and Vancouver are “Technology and Innovation Hubs” that attract a significant number of start-ups, technology companies, and research institutions, fostering innovation and driving the digital revolution in the country.
Canada has renowned AI research institutions, including the Vector Institute in Toronto, and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), which have attracted global tech giants like Google and Microsoft to establish research labs in the country.
As digital technologies advance, ensuring data privacy and cybersecurity is crucial. Canada has implemented laws and regulations, such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), to protect personal data and privacy rights. The Canadian government also works to strengthen cybersecurity measures and collaborate with international partners to combat cyber threats, while Canadian cyber security firms like Blackberry, Artic Wolf and others offer new solutions for clients.
And Canada has been investing in improving its digital infrastructure to support the digital revolution, including supporting the expansion of broadband internet access in rural and remote areas, so all Canadians have reliable and high-speed internet connections.
Canada’s commitment to innovation, research, digital infrastructure, and a supportive ecosystem has positioned it well as a major player in the global digital economy.
4) To achieve equality, is gender policy, education or information more important?
All three are needed to achieve gender equality. Absent a comprehensive and integrated approach, we simply wont achieve the transformative changes needed so all peoples in all societies can equally thrive.
Gender policies provide a supportive legal and institutional framework; information campaigns create awareness and encourage action; and education provides individuals with the knowledge and skills to challenge gender inequalities.
For instance, when designing policies, programs or legislation, decision-makers need to understand how their efforts may reinforce existing barriers or unwittingly discriminate against some parts of the population based on gender and other intersecting factors like age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, and sexual orientation. For this reason, the Government of Canada now systematically adopts a gender-sensitive approach to policy making using “Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+)”: a pair of glasses, if you will, that one must put on when designing new initiatives or evaluating existing policies and programs so you can make sure they meet the diverse needs and realities of all citizens – men and women, girls and boys – contributing to more inclusive and equitable outcomes across society. This relies on good gender disaggregated data and access to accurate information about gender issues.
Indeed, information campaigns are a valuable complement to GBA+ approaches. Having good information about gender inequalities, the impact of gender stereotypes, and the importance of equal rights and opportunities can increase the likelihood that citizens will buy into the changes needed for a more equitable society. Information campaigns can challenge harmful norms, beliefs, and prejudices that perpetuate gender inequality. Providing information about available resources, support services, and rights can also empower individuals to take action, seek help, and advocate for change.
And enabling equal access to education for all girls and boys is the final, powerful element needed to break the cycle of gender inequality, notably when accompanied by actions that challenge stereotypes and encourage women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated fields. The data is clear – when girls are educated, they are healthier and wealthier as are their families and communities, breaking the cycle of poverty. For this reason, Canada has prioritized girls’ and women’s quality education in its all its international assistance funding, advocacy and partnerships, including by supporting initiatives the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).