Women in Industry and Innovation virtual conference

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Italy have organized a virtual conference to help build women’s resilience to global challenges and emerging crises.

Between 15 July and 17 July, more than 1600 conference participants from over 130 countries heard from 56 speakers during three roundtable discussions, two special events and two spotlight sessions. 

The conference covered topics of women economic empowerment in agribusiness, information communications technology (ICT) and the circular economy. It took place within the framework of the UNIDO project, “Promoting Women’s Empowerment (PWE) for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA Region, which is funded by the Italian Government, 

UNIDO Director General LI Yong opened the conference, acknowledging the unique challenges the world is facing in 2020, as well as marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which, he said, “is a crucial pillar for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Li further reaffirmed UNIDO’s commitment to addressing gender inequalities in industry and to harnessing women’s full potential as leaders and economic agents of change, thereby transforming economies and generating inclusive growth. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution is ripe with promise. Let us all work together to ensure that women benefit equally by participating in, shaping and pushing the frontiers of industry and innovation. ”

Italy’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela del Re, highlighted the importance of women entrepreneurs as engines of the recovery from the current crisis, while the Director General of FAO, QU Dongyu, insisted that women’s leadership as farmers, traders and entrepreneurs are key to achieving the SDGs, including the eradication of hunger and malnutrition.

The Regional Director of UN Women for the Arab States, Moez Doraid, spoke of the importance of technology and innovation for the empowerment of women in a statement delivered on behalf of UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Conference outcomes

First, governments play a crucial role in creating an ecosystem that allows women to move into high-value addition sectors through the mainstreaming of women entrepreneurship and job creation. Moreover, applying a gender lens to the design of economic policies should play a crucial part of the recovery from the current crisis.

Second, the empowerment of women means ensuring that girls can engage in technology studies from an early age and progress into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields of education and work.

Third, women entrepreneurs need to be supported through the removal of barriers and biases that prevent the upgrading of technical knowledge and access to markets, finance and infrastructure. These measures require stronger multi-stakeholder partnerships with a strong role for the private sector in fighting biases and facilitating upscaling of women’s contributions.

Finally, networking exists in many forms and all need to be fostered for a more meaningful participation of women in the economy and society at large.

UNIDO will take the lessons learnt during the conference to bolster its activities in boosting employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in selected gender-sensitive value chains across seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.