Internet Governance Forum 2014: Results from the Gender Report Card

18 June 2015

By APC

Summary of findings

The ninth Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held in Istanbul, Turkey on 2-5 September 2014, framed discussions under the overall theme “Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance”. Since 2011, APC's Women's Rights Programme has been compiling Gender Report Cards to monitor and assess the level of gender parity and inclusion at the IGF's workshop sessions.

In 2013, we had noted moderate improvements in gender inclusion and parity from the 2012 edition of the IGF.

Some highlights of the 2014 report cards

This year, IGF workshops sessions were divided into nine sub-themes, with most workshops reporting more or less an equal number of women and men attending the sessions. The Critical Internet Resources and Emerging Issues sub-themes were the ones with the greatest gender imbalance overall, with a majority of men as panellists and moderators. As these workshops often covered topics that were more technical, it is worth considering how women can be included in a more systematic way in those areas of discussion in the future.

1. Women as moderators

In 2014, 31% of moderators were women, which reflected a decline compared to 2013 when 40% of moderators were women. All of the sub-themes had more men than women as moderators. Internet as an Engine for Growth and Development came nearest to achieving gender parity in terms of moderators.

2. Women as panellists

The ratio of women to men panellists stayed relatively the same in 2014 compared to the 2013 Report Card findings, at approximately two women for every three men panellists. Male panellists outnumbered female panellists in all sub-themes. The imbalance was greatest (four men to every woman) in the Emerging Issues sub-theme and lowest in the sub-theme Internet and Human Rights (ratio of 1.1 to 1).

3. Gender as a topic

Out of the 77 sessions reported, the most common response for content of discussions was that gender was not seen as relevant (52 sessions, or 68%). Five sessions (6%) identified gender as the main theme of the workshop, five sessions (6%) marked gender as an important topic, and 15 sessions (19%) reported that gender was mentioned in the workshop.

This can be contrasted with 2012, where out of the 71 sessions reported, gender was rated as the main theme for only one session (less than 1% of the total), and was seen as not relevant for 50 sessions (70% of the total).

This showed marked improvement in terms of the link that organisers made between gender and internet governance, although as evident from the responses, there is still much room for improvement.

4. Recommendations

The responses for the multiple choice questions did not retain enough range to reflect the nuances in participation. Feedback suggested that where women constituted less than half of participants, those completing the report cards tended to mark women's participation as “half” rather than as “few”. For the 2015 report card, we recommend that between the choices of “half of the participants were women” and “few participants were women”, an option of “less than half of the participants were women” should be included.

To promote women as expert voices and opinion makers, the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) could include women's participation as panellists and moderators in its workshop selection criteria, as well as recommending to organisers to include a gendered dimension in the proposed workshop topic, where relevant and as far as possible.

Introduction

This report summarises the contents of the Gender Report Card sections of the workshop reports from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of 2014. Similar summaries were done by APC for the 2012 and 2013 IGF events.

In 2012, reports for a total of 89 workshops were submitted and analysed. In 2013, only 27 report cards were available for analysis and some of these were not for workshop sessions. APC itself therefore completed report cards for workshops for which no report card was found on the IGF website, yielding a total of 100 report cards for analysis.

For 2014, we again have report cards for 89 workshop sessions – all of them sourced from the IGF website. APC itself completed parallel report cards for 17 events, of which eight were marked as workshop sessions. The analysis in this report focuses on the official report cards found on the IGF website.

The IGF workshops are categorised into sub-themes. The table below shows that five of the sub-themes each account for 10 or more workshops, while one sub-theme has only one workshop. (One workshop was not allocated to a sub-theme in the database).


For each session the report asked whether the moderator was male or female. Of the 89 workshops, 60 (67%) had a male moderator, 28 (31%) had a female moderator, and one had both male and female moderators.

The table below shows that the Emerging Issues sub-theme – as well as the sub-theme with only one workshop – had no female moderators. None of the sub-themes had as many female as male moderators. Internet as an Engine for Growth and Development came nearest to achieving gender parity in terms of moderators. This theme was also the one that had a workshop with both a male and female moderator.


For each session the report asked about the number of women and men panellists. This information was provided for all sessions. In total there were 248 women and 367 men panellists. This means that men accounted for 60% of the total of 615 panellists.

Four workshops (Policies and Practices to Enable the Internet of Things; The Role of IXPs in Growing the Local Digital Economy; Building Technical Communities in Developing Regions; and Cybersecurity for ccTLDs – governance and best practices) did not have any female panellists. One workshop (Discussion on Multistakeholderism in Africa) did not have any male panellists.

The table below shows that male panellists outnumbered female panellists in all sub-themes. The imbalance was greatest (four men to every woman) in the Emerging Issues sub-theme and lowest in the sub-theme Internet and Human Rights (ratio of 1.1 to 1).


The number of women panellists ranged from 0 to 9. The mean number of women panellists per session was 2.8, with a median of 3. The number of men panellists ranged from 0 to 10. The mean number of men panellists was 4.1, with a median of 4. Of the 89 sessions, 19 (21%) had more women than men panellists, 13 (15%) had an equal number of women and men panellists, and 57 (64%) had more men than women panellists.

The number of participants recorded as attending individual sessions ranged from 15 to 200. The mean number of participants was 66, with a median of 47. Overall, a total of 5,004 participants were recorded as having attended sessions. Of these, 1,396 attended sessions where women panellists dominated, 740 attended sessions where there was an equal number of male and female panellists, and 2,868 attended sessions where men panellists dominated.

The table that follows shows that sessions in the sub-theme Enhancing Digital Trust tended to have the best attendance. Mean attendance at this sub-theme was noticeably higher than for any other sub-theme. Meanwhile, sessions in the sub-theme Internet as an Engine for Growth and Development tended to have the lowest attendance.


The number of participants was recorded separately for women and men for only one workshop session. However, the report card asked whether women constituted the majority, about half, a minority (“few”), or none of the participants, and this assessment was provided for 77 of the 89 workshop sessions.

Feedback suggested that where women constituted less than half of participants, those completing the report cards tended to code the number of women as “half” rather than as “few”. This tendency to understand the term “equal” in a broad way was also observed for 2013.

In future years the report card could be amended by adding approximate percentages to each category, and renaming “few” to “a minority”. The percentages could be 1-39% for “a minority”, 40-60% for “half” and 41-99% for “a majority”.

There were no workshops for which no women were reported as attending, only one workshop (Preserving a Universal Internet: The Costs of Fragmentation) where “few” women were reported, and two (Online Advocacy and Women's Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region, and Anonymity by Design: Protecting While Connecting) where women were among the majority. Thus, of those workshops for which this information was provided, 96% were marked as having women constitute “half” of all participants. This is higher than the 67% marked in this way for 2012, and the 91% marked in this way for 2013.

The workshop with “few” women fell in the Emerging Issues sub-theme, while the workshops with women being reported as the majority were in the sub-themes Internet and Human Rights and Internet as an Engine for Growth and Development.

The report form also asked about the relative importance of gender in the discussions that happened in the session. Again, 77 of the 89 cards had a response recorded. The most common response was that gender was not seen as relevant. This was marked for 52 sessions, 68% of those for which a response was recorded.

Next most common was the response that gender was mentioned – a response given for 15 sessions, 19% of those with a response. This left five workshops (Human Rights for the Internet: From Principles to Action; Online Advocacy and Women's Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region; Anonymity by Design: Protecting While Connecting; Promoting Platform Responsibility for Content Management; and Youth Involvement in Internet Governance) for which gender was raised by the speakers as important, and a further five (Launch of UNESCO publication Digital Safety of Journalists; Intermediaries’ role and good practice in protecting FOE; Creating, protecting and providing access to digital culture; Accountability challenges facing Internet governance today; and Evaluating MS Mechanisms to Address Governance Issues) where gender was named as the main topic of discussion. This can be contrasted with 2012 where, of the 71 sessions for which ratings were given, gender was rated as the main theme for only one session (less than 1% of the total), and was seen as not relevant for 50 sessions (70% of the total).

The table below shows that the five sessions in which gender was the main topic were spread across three sub-themes, as were the five sessions in which gender was an important topic. Internet and Human rights accounted for five of the 10 sessions in which gender was the main or an important topic. At the other end of the spectrum, gender was considered irrelevant in 10 of the 12 sessions scored on gender relevance within the sub-theme Enhancing Digital Trust, and seven of the nine sessions on Policies Enabling Access.


The table below shows that the mean number of participants was highest (at 77) in the sessions where gender was seen as important, and lowest in those where gender was merely mentioned.


If we cross-tabulate the different responses, both sessions for which women were said to be in the majority were rated as having gender as an important theme, while the single session that was said to have few women participants had gender rated as not relevant.

The session which was said to have few women participants had men dominating among the panellists, while the two sessions in which women constituted the majority of participants had women dominating among the panellists.

Sessions in which gender was mentioned were equally likely to be moderated by men and women. All other categories of gender relevance had men more likely to moderate than women. However, as seen in the table below, the male dominance was highest in the category of sessions in which gender was the main topic of discussion.


Open-ended responses summarising the discussion in respect of gender equality were provided for 18 of the 89 sessions. Such responses were provided for only three of the sessions marked as not relevant from a gender perspective, nine of the sessions in which gender was mentioned, and three out of five sessions for each of the categories where gender was the main topic or an important topic. Several of the comments highlighted the key role played by APC staff in highlighting gender issues.

The comments for the sessions where gender was considered irrelevant were as follows, with the second comment suggesting that a gender issue was raised in respect of younger people. This suggests a limited understanding of gender on the part of the person completing the score card:

1. The workshop was related to core internet technologies and gender issues were not related to the workshop’s theme and were, thus, not raised.

2. Gender issues were not in the focus nonetheless there were mentioned some differences in young people’s internet usage related to their gender, as for example boys are more likely to spend much time playing online games while girls more often use social networks extensively.

3. Although the workshop did not relate to gender inequality, it did cover issues of youth empowerment which, of course, includes females as well as males.

Comments for the sessions where gender was mentioned were as follows:

* The workshop focused on children's empowerment and rights. Girls often miss out on the opportunities to participate in relation to the internet and digital technologies. And insofar as girls can be the victims of abuse based on the internet, we also considered such matters. The main purpose of the research was to consider how children's rights in the digital age can be researched. Gender is also important when designing research – in recruiting participants, in consulting parents, and in asking sensitive questions about pornography or sexual violence, for instance. So all of these were considered, and methodological solutions debated.

* The value of women's groups as a potential ally in promoting the African Declaration – and internet rights more generally, was mentioned. As was the value of the Declaration in supporting UNESCO's work promoting gender equality.

* Half of the panel members were female entrepreneurs. Gender was not specifically raised as a barrier, although the need to close the skills gap through increased education in related matters was addressed for all students, boys and girls.

* Several of the workshop panellists, particularly Nnenna Nwakanna and Subi Chaturvedi, referenced the importance access played in empowering women in their role as home makers, business owners, and community leaders. Subi spoke about the young women she teaches to and how many have gone off, empowered by the use of the internet, to become community reporters and activists using the power and outreach that the internet access has provided to them. Nnenna told of the challenges mothers have with monitoring technology use by their children, not only monitoring the content but the amount of usage (a YouTube video can quickly add up to a lot of money in access costs vs. using the internet for researching a homework assignment).

* Our local speakers were very gender balanced and we could discuss how the open process for workshops submission and grants on ArenaNETmundial made possible many activities with gender balance and discussion on the days of ArenaNETmundial.

* One questioner made a statement about the importance of transparency from content platforms about their procedures for taking down content related to sexual harassment and violence against women, and especially the importance of clear instructions and human contact points to ask for takedowns of such material.

* Gender equality was brought up by an audience member, stressing that women empowerment should be encouraged by local ICT businesses in the Philippines.

* Gender equality (and social class) was mentioned in the context of consumers' access to (a) smartphones, and (b) education. It was suggested that the level of education/social class (and where relevant, gender) plays a role in someone's privacy expectations and understanding.

* Examples mentioned how open data assisted in women’s rights. How data can help improve gender equality related to the post 2015 UN Agenda – re the call for a data revolution in development. It was mentioned that data can help address gender inequalities and support the socio-economic development of women. For example, the UN plans to use data to help reach the Millennium Development Goals, some of which refer to gender inequalities, for their Post 2015 development agenda.

The four comments for sessions in which gender was said to be important read as follows:

* Panelist Nadine Moawad (APC) discussed the importance of anonymity for combating sexual violence. We have seen a number of case studies, in Egypt, in Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Indonesia, in almost every country, where women use an anonymous Tumblr or Twitter account to talk about sexual violence; to come out and say, "I was raped. This happened to me. And this is how I feel about it." There are many such examples of women, especially young women who come out and talk about violence that's happened to them in institutions, schools, universities, at their jobs, on the streets. And being able to be anonymous takes away the details used to blame the victim. Being able to be anonymous helped women to put their experiences forward, to talk about the violence that happens and to bring it into the public sphere.

* Gender issues were referred to as implicit to the IRPC Charter of Human Rights and Principles; and connected to the themes on gender covered in WS146 also organized by the IRPC.

* As stated above in the brief substantive summary, gender issues were raised by Janine Moolman (APC) and were considered as integral part of the discussion: The question was mainly on the lack of specific rules in online platforms regarding behaviour against women online, and the lack of clear and effective mechanisms to complain against online harassment and have them addressed by the platform.

* APC’s recent work on the Feminist Principles of the Internet and suggested developing a mechanism to protect women against online violence by social media.

Finally, the comments for sessions in which gender was the main topic were:

* Women journalists and media actors are more vulnerable to online harassment and digital threats, so they need more awareness and special protection. UNESCO's research also includes one section about the gender specific aspect on digital safety issues.

* In discussing how the internet governance space has evolved to enable new organizations to effectively pursue human rights-related issues, Joy Liddicoat (APC) described the work of the Gender Dynamic Coalition. The Coalition took the lead in developing ground-breaking Feminist Principles of the Internet.

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