The Digital Gender Divide

Nilmini Rubin, executive vice president for International Development at Tetra Tech, discusses the growing divide in connectivity between women and men online in EQUALS’ blog. Nilmini explains how the same reasons women lack equal access to necessities such as electricity, water, education, and health care are causing the divide to not only persist, but grow. She also discussed the Tetra Tech-supported ECOFish project, and how the unrestricted internet access allowed the entire community to access the network for purposes such as personal communications, work, and education.

The original post ran on the EQUALS blog.

Four billion people currently lack access to the internet—more than half of the world’s population. Of those four billion, women are 25 percent less likely to be online than men, which hurts their ability to learn, earn, and share. And the percentage of women gaining access to the internet is actually going down. ITU and EQUALS has identified that the digital gender gap widened from 11 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2016, resulting in 250 million fewer women online than men.

I recently participated in a panel titled “Connecting the Next Four Billion: Strengthening the Global Response for Universal Internet Access,” and someone in the audience asked why the digital gender divide persists. I would have loved to have given a cutting-edge answer, as though it was a new problem.

However, the reasons women in developing countries are trailing in internet access are the same old reasons why women lack proportional access to electricity, water, education, and health care. Women’s access lags on these fronts even though “closing gender gaps benefits countries as a whole, not just women and girls,” as the IMF has asserted.

Nilmini Rubin

Nilmini Rubin

Nilmini Rubin, vice president for international development at Tetra Tech, works to facilitate power and infrastructure transactions, promote clean energy solutions, expand electricity connectivity, boost energy service delivery, and improve utility operations. Prior to joining Tetra Tech, Nilmini served as a senior advisor to the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs and as a senior aide to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the White House's National Security Council, the U.S. Department of Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum. She holds a Master of Business Administration and a bachelor's degree in economics and development studies from the University of California, Berkeley.