The Philippines is tied with Thailand in having the highest share of women technology graduates across Southeast Asia. Representation is also increasing in business and more people are aware of the benefits of female empowerment. I am proud to see the work being done to help Filipino women access opportunities in the field of technology. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we can certainly celebrate these achievements.
Nevertheless, challenges persist. In fast-growing fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), where women account for only 26% of job positions, and cloud computing, in which female representation is a mere 12%, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
UNESCO’s groundbreaking 2017 report, Cracking the code: girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), found that only 30% of all female higher education students pursue STEM-related fields of study, with information and communications technologies (ICT) having the lowest global female enrolment rate at only 3%, followed by natural science, mathematics and statistics at 5%.
According to McKinsey, women accounted for 40% of the Philippine’s workforce and contributed about one-third of the country’s GDP in 2016. Improving gender equality could potentially result in $40 billion added to the Philippine GDP by 2025, or a 7% improvement over “business-as-usual” GDP.
For these reasons, at Alibaba Cloud we see an emerging role for technology companies to address the gender gap by increasing access to STEM education and careers for women as well as ensuring equality in the pursuit of senior positions in the industry. It is clear that more access will come through a change in mindset and greater encouragement for young girls to pursue a STEM education and its related disciplines.
We are advocating for girls to be given the same encouragement as boys to enter STEM fields. Because we are a technology company, we see this as a fundamental social responsibility that is at the same time in our best interest. Greater gender diversity is good for business.
Achieving gender equality is about commitment and collaboration
We are proud that women represent almost half of the Alibaba Group’s workforce, with female executives’ representation at 34%.
However, we believe progress will be limited if we work alone – instead, it is necessary that we work together, creatively and with determination. This was the motivation behind Alibaba Cloud’s Tech for Change program, which was launched in 2019 to forge collaborations and partnerships around a wide range of causes, including encouraging businesses and the wider society to invest in and create new opportunities toward a gender-equal world.
One of the first Tech for Change partnerships was with iamtheCODE, the first African-led global movement to mobilize governments, businesses and philanthropic organizations around the promotion of STEAMED (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Entrepreneurship and Design) education.
The overarching goal of the movement is to teach one million women and girls to code by 2030 by offering tailored online courses to aspiring female technologists, especially those from marginalized areas. The courses cover a wide range of topics, including cloud computing, data analytics, machine learning and security, and come with certificates upon completion. Our collaboration with iamtheCODE reflects Alibaba Cloud’s long-held commitment to empowering women through technology.
Championing female technologists in the Philippines
The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that the Philippines continues to lead its Asian peers in closing the gap between women and men, having reduced its overall disparity by 78% since 2006. Broken down by dimension, the Philippines has closed 80% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gap and ranks 5th worldwide in terms of gender wage equality. The country’s Educational Attainment gap has similarly reduced, with both sexes having reached a literacy rate of over 98%; there is also a significantly larger share of women enrolled in secondary and tertiary education. Regarding Health and Survival, women are now expected to live in good health for five years longer than men.
This evidence shows the passion for gender equality in the Philippines, which provides no shortage of opportunities for firms to find ways to contribute. For example, Alibaba Cloud is working to increase the knowledge and capabilities of Filipino IT professionals through a series of cloud computing training programs, such as the Alibaba Academy Program, Alibaba Cloud Partner Program and Alibaba Certificate Program. The courses have been designed to prepare Filipinos, including female cloud users, to thrive in the digital age.
Our goal is to train at least 50,000 Filipinos in the use of digital technology as well as certify 10,000 in the use of cloud software by the end of 2023. Alibaba Cloud is also actively supporting the digital transformation of businesses in the Philippines, with a goal to assist 5,000 local enterprises migrate online over the same time period.
On this occasion of International Women’s Day, we are eager to reiterate our commitment to providing access to cloud computing resources and AI technology to women in the Philippines and around the world. Our vision is a future where women from all walks of life will have the chance to lead in and through the power of technology.
The author is the president of international business at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence