1 November 2015, Geneva, Switzerland - UNITAR’s Women’s Leadership Programme in partnership with UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) held a Leadership Workshop for the female delegates accredited to the Radiocommunication Assembly (RA) and the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC). The workshop was opened with remarks by Mr. Francois Rancy, Director of the Radiocommunication Bureau at ITU and Mr. Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNITAR Executive Director.

Both speakers outlined the need for such a workshop, Mr. Rancy acknowledged that if the current progress was to continue it would take 96 years until Radiocommuncation negotiations reach parity, echoing this Mr. Seth emphasised that we should aim to double female participation by the next WRC as “women’s equality and empowerment is good politics, good economics, good for social inclusion and an important way of insuring peaceful and just societies”.

Facilitator Ambassador Tania Dussey-Cavassini, started the session by emphasising the diverse group of participants, with over 20 nationalities and an accumulated work experience of over 500 years.  The experience of the participants was diverse and broad, with over 75% of the group being new to the WRC and others having participated in the conference multiple times.

The workshop was successful in providing a platform which enabled participants to share and connect with each other’s experiences.  Discussions highlighted challenges such as the lack of women role models in STEM fields and the pressure they feel to prove themselves.  However they noted in order to overcome the challenges, it is important to focus on finding opportunities in challenges and to be bold and innovative to ensure their voice is heard. 

For example an experienced WRC delegate referring to the workshop group, recommended for everyone to

“...find strength in your network. Look around the room, there are people who are facing similar challenges in different companies or countries. Next time you are seeking support, you will know who to reach out to.”

This is important, since it is known that only 1% of women in technology fields, reach out to women outside of their own company or organization whenever they face a challenge.

The workshop also included a high-level armchair discussion, focusing on Women’s Leadership in Science and Technology, with interventions made by Her Excellency Ambassador Yvette Stevens (Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva), Ms. Elena Manaenkova, Assistant Secretary-General for World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Dr Veena Rawat, Senior Spectrum Advisor, Government and Regulatory Affairs GSMA, Dr Whitney Lohmeyer, Communications Systems and Regulatory Engineer, OneWeb, and Ms Julie N. Zoller,  Senior Deputy Coordinator and Director of Multilateral Affairs, U.S. Department of State, ITU RRB Member. The panel was moderated by Ms Doreen Bogdan Martin, Chief, Strategic Planning and Membership, ITU.

These high-level women shared their personal experience, success, challenges and lessons-learned throughout their careers and their paths into leadership. They spoke with specific reference to their experience in science and technology including radiocommunications, engineering, aeronautics and meteorology, addressing some of the specific challenges that women frequently face in fields where they are underrepresented.  The panel also addressed and discussed the tangible steps we can all take towards advance women’s participation in these fields.

The final session of the day included closing remarks by ITU Secretary-General. Mr Houlin Zhao, expressing his commitment to advancing gender equality at ITU Conferences and Meetings, as well as recognizing the important role of ITU’s partnership with UNITAR.

The evaluations of the workshop were extremely positive, asking for future workshops to “encourage and promote more women into leadership roles which as a result will enhance the work of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau and beyond.”

Workshop participants will remain connected through UNITAR’s Women’s Leadership alumni network and ITU’s Gender Equality and Mainstreaming (GEM) platform. UNITAR looks forward to working with UN Women and other UN Partners and Member States to deliver similar workshops in the near future.

For more information, please contact Emily Fraser and/or Emily Bradley at womensleadership@unitar.org

Related link

ITU video highlights: ITU and UNITAR workshop for women delegates RA/WRC15


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