by Xinhua Writer Shi Xiaomeng
UNITED NATIONS, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Hi-tech education for women and girls is a critical means to ensuring women's participation in current digital economy, said UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Puri said women need to be educated with ICT (information and communications technology)-related skills to have access to decent jobs and stay competitive in the labor market.
Education in science, technology, engineering and math can equip females to meet the demands from labor market and thus to be economically empowered, she added.
To advocate women's economic empowerment is the major focus of the upcoming International Women's Day which falls on Wednesday. The UN will celebrate the Day with a theme "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030" to call for changes across the world.
Puri said economic empowerment means that women can have equal access to land, property, productive assets and resources, essential services and infrastructures.
It also means women can be given the same opportunities for decent jobs, occupational training, as well as full and productive employment, she added.
"If we don't have women's economic empowerment, we can't enable them to enjoy their equal rights in other areas," said Puri.
She noted that women worldwide are faced with multiple challenges at workplace, including gender pay gap, gender stereotypes, occupational segregation as well as obstacles in promotion.
World Bank statistics show that globally, women are paid less than men. Women in most countries earn on average only 60 to 75 percent of men's wages.
In addition, women bear disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work: women devote 1 to 3 hours more a day to housework than men; 2 to 10 times the amount of time a day to care for children or the elderly.
Puri mentioned that flexible working for women such as Uber-type working can help them find work-life balance.
But she also noted new forms of working may yield conditions that deepen gender disparity which need to be avoided through well-designed policies.
In this regard, she said the private sector needs to bear the major responsibility to integrate gender equality into practices, and the public sector shall provide with corresponding support.
Puri said women entrepreneurship is what the UN agency has been advocating to overcome gender gap in labor market.
"We hope that women entrepreneurship becomes a key driver of employing other women and creating jobs for women," she said.
To achieve this, countries need to create an enabling environment with better financial and technical support to help females to start their own businesses in all sectors, said Puri.
By doing this, "we hope the current economy can be transformed in a way that is more favorable for women, more adaptive to women's needs and talents, thus creating equality worldwide," she added.