Today is International Women’s Day, with the goal to empower women in all settings. This year, the Internet Society is celebrating by shining a light on the women who are shaping the Internet, including our own CEO, Kathy Brown. She shared her thoughts how we can ensure that all women have a place at the table in our increasingly-connected world.
The Internet Society: Who are the women who have inspired you throughout your career? How have they inspired you?
Kathy Brown: It is sometimes seen as cliché to point to the women who raised you as your first inspiration — but for many of us, and for me, I believe it is nevertheless true that our mothers are the first fuel for our activism. My mother was a “community organizer” in the 1960’s War on Poverty in the U.S. She was an activist in rural, upstate New York — organizing communities to alleviate poverty. She was a mover and a doer; she was fearless and never yielding to powerful forces who either did not see or would not see the effects of poverty on individuals and families. Having grown up with a woman with that kind of passion for people, watching what one woman can accomplish, I have never doubted the power of women to change the world.
How do you rate women’s representation across the Internet sphere, from technologists to content creators?
The Internet is one of the most powerful tools ever invented by humans to empower people. It allows us to access information, knowledge and know-how from a global community. We can also communicate, connect and collaborate with those who are closest to us. It is a tool for social and economic growth and is especially intuitive for women — who are natural communicators and organizers. Everywhere in the world, I see women using their individual and professional talent online to better their lives. And the number of young women who are now “digital natives” is growing. These young women are leading the way in using the Internet to follow their dreams and aspirations. More women are coding, building and enhancing the Internet than ever before. Women create content every day and their presence is making a difference in the way social and ethical norms are evolving. We encourage and applaud these efforts.
How has the Internet Society worked to ensure that women have a role in shaping the Internet? What can individuals and organizations do to make a difference?
The Internet Society’s Special Interest Group for Women (SIG Women) is a community created to make a difference. This amazingly dynamic group of women was born from determination among members to encourage the involvement of women in technology, help reduce the gender digital gap and ensure that women have a role in shaping the Internet. SIG Women is working to influence positive change in each region, but the road is not easy and more efforts — from all of us — are needed. Joining SIG Women could be the first step.
What does the future look like for women?
The future is about women. Women leading the way for a better world where they can live fulfilling lives, pursuing their individual dreams and those of their families. The tools of the 21st century — connectivity, access to knowledge, access to each other — are tools that women can and do put to powerful uses.
The most satisfying experiences of my time with the Internet Society have been meeting and learning from women, in every part of the world, who have used the Internet to become even stronger leaders in their communities, who have become entrepreneurs — in charge of their own economic future, who have embraced technology as a powerful means of communicating and coordinating with their families close and far, who are moving forward and will not settle with being left behind.
Photo: Kathy Brown visiting Barefoot College in India.