The rise of cyberfeminism

3 months ago 3170
Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy and evangelist for KnowBe4 Africa

Changing the differences in power that exist in digital discourse and embracing diversity across all platforms

Cyberfeminism is defined as both a philosophy and a movement. As a philosophy, it acknowledges the differences in power between men and women, specifically around digital discourse, and what needs to be done to chance these differences. As a movement, it is focused on empowerment, for all types of diversity. It is an important consideration in today’s society, not least because women will be put at risk if they do not find their digital footing in the age of the internet.

“Women are not given as many opportunities to explore the potential of digital and to learn more about how they can engage with technology, particularly in Africa,” explains Anna Collard, SVP of content strategy and evangelist for KnowBe4 Africa. “Because of this, they are at risk of being left behind as the world moves into digital everything. They run the risk of remaining stuck in the professions that have been traditionally menial or traditionally labelled as those belonging to women. This dynamic has to change.”

Women bring a unique flavour any business environment, and diversity can fundamentally change the innovative mindset of an organisation. This makes digital equality a critical touchpoint for both humanity and the organisation. For it is innovation that will disrupt the traditional and reshape the future. Yet, a study by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) found that women in Africa are using the internet measurably less than men.

“The digital gender gap is not a perception, it is a reality, and if this continues, a large percentage of women will lose out,” says Collard. “To change this, we need to look at the primary causes of this gap and find inventive ways of bridging it.”

One of the first reasons for the gap remains the attitudes and norms perpetuated by patriarchal society. There is a lack of big data around women – a problem that author Caroline Criado-Perez dubbed ‘silencing half the world’s population’ – and this impacts the gender across everything from healthcare to employment. The embedded attitudes and perceptions influence behaviour and attitudes, and is particularly persistent in African countries. This is further underscored by a survey undertaken by the OECD that found men tend to have priority over women when it comes to accessing the internet and often have control over what women can access on the internet.

“These are deep, ingrained, systemic barriers that are built on patriarchal thinking that are difficult to measure, but have a sustained impact on women,” says Collard. “Now add to this the fact that women of colour are more likely to be targeted by online hate speech, and that African girls are concerned about their online safety, and the entire picture is very much out of balance.”

A 2020 survey undertaken by KnowBe4 also found that digital literacy and cybersecurity education as a whole were lacking – not just around gender. Only 3.7% of the African teachers participating said that they offered cybersecurity as a subject and yet, this is a critical touchpoint for ensuring online safety.

“We need to move the lines, change the perceptions and embrace the idea of cyberfeminism,” concludes Collard. “We need to focus our efforts as individuals and organisations towards strengthening women’s rights, inventing into digital and data literacy and education, ensuring everyone has access to the internet, and integrate gender equity targets into national ICT policies.”

It is an issue that needs more awareness. But it also needs firmer commitment from industry, the public sector and organisations alike. If companies approach their talent acquisition strategies with a greater emphasis on gender equality, then more will be done to foster this talent from the ground up.

Staff writer

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