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Diya K. Wynn

Amazon Web Services, AI/ML Ethicist Emerging Technologies & Intelligent Platforms GSP | USA
Diya K. Wynn has worked in technology for 25 years building, operating, delivering and leading in early and growth-stage companies. Diya is an Ambassador for Inclusion & Diversity and a pioneer in the company leading the Women in Professional Services, an affinity group focused on gender diversity. She was awarded an Inclusion Ambassador Award in February 2020 from her company and is a 2020 finalist for the Women in IT Awards Advocate of the Year. Diya is a leader in her local church and as a mayoral appointee in Environmental Affairs in the city of Laurel for 6 consecutive years. She currently serves as a Class Agent for Suffield Academy (HS), is a lifetime member of National Alumnae Association of Spelman College and is the President of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College Southern MD chapter. Diya K. Wynn talked about the transformative role of technology in women`s empowerment. She addressed the systemic and institutional barriers that marginalize women. Wynn underlined that gender equality can be achieved only through the collaboration of all stakeholders in the society.

I would like to share with you a story of a little girl, who was born in Harlem and grew up in a single parent, poverty-stricken home in the South Bronx, NY. She spent her early education in the public-school system. This girl was taught to value and take seriously her education, and in the 3rd grade, her diligence in her studies was rewarded. She received a computer for having high academic achievement in her school. She was fascinated by this technology and it opened up a world for her unlike any she had been exposed to or frankly was aware of. None of the fairy tales she watched had women with jobs.

• None of her books she read told stories of women working in computers or science.

• It was not reflected in any of her school studies either.

• The prevailing thought and pictures from media portrayed certain roles for women as homemakers, teachers or maybe a nurse.

And it was not something she saw in the women around her. 

You can imagine, even though she was in new, exciting and intriguing territory, it was foreign and a frightening prospect. Perhaps she was too young to know this, so with all the intellect she had she decided at 8 that set her on a course to study and pursue a career in computers.

That girl is me!

I shared that story because it speaks to the very heart and intent of the Beijing Declaration, our goal for gender equality and women empowered; it is not about me. My story is not uncommon. One only rises to the level that she/he is exposed. I come from meager beginnings, but it was the exposure to technology at an early age and education that changed the trajectory of my life.

I consider exposure or access to education and technology critical in seeing gender equality; however, I would be presenting an incomplete picture if I failed to mention how our dream and work toward gender equality is undermined because of systems, policies, socio-cultural norms and patriarchal structures that have supported mindsets of gender inequality for decades, or dare I say hundreds of years.

My journey has been one met with opposition and struggle, not just because of being a woman, rather coupled with the scourge of being black, an African American woman in America In order to see the promise of the Beijing Declaration and UN sustainable development goals, we must be determined to address systemic and institutional barriers that perpetuate discrimination against and keep us all from being equal. This cannot be done by women or people from marginalized communities alone. It requires the active work and partnership of men and the majority.

When I reflect on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA) from 1995, which refers 189 countries signifying their commitment to achieving equality, development and peace for women and girls worldwide, I was nearing the end of my undergraduate studies in computer science at Spelman College and the parent company where I now work was just a year old.

  • The unmanned Galileo spacecraft arrived at planet Jupiter
  • Ebola was ravaging the Congo and Central Africa
  • The NATO bombing led to the Peace Agreement, after thousands of Muslims were killed and women raped.
  • The Dayton accord was signed by leaders of Bosnia,
  • The US troops pull out of Somalia where women were disproportionately affected by war, raped and mutilation.
  • At least 60 million girls worldwide were without access to primary school educations, and more than two thirds of the world’s (960 million) illiterate adults were women. 58% of the world population was women but only 46% over 16 had jobs.

This was 1995. These among other events and statistics all reflect severe impediments to the advancement of women and to development. That is what made the Declaration so monumental. Since then, the international community has seen slow progress in areas of women`s equality globally, but there have been rapid advances in technology that can benefit the cause, including:
• Broadband makes higher speed internet access available in homes [1995]
• Flash was introduced for rich content delivery on the web [1996]
• Google was founded transforming [1998] how we attain data
• Ontologies give way to the semantic web [2004]
• Social networking gives rise to a new paradigm for connecting, interacting and influencing [2007]
• Cloud computing provided internet-based access to democratized IT resources [2006]
• Artificial intelligence (more specifically machine learning) and big data emerge driving change in how
we live and work, and
• Quantum computing promises unparalleled processing power to solve previously unapproachable problems

If we think about technology in its simplest form, society as a whole has benefitted from methods, systems, and devices improved or invented that use knowledge to solve some problems. These specific technological advancements provide jobs, upward mobility, create income, stability and opportunities to build up, inherit, and share in wealth. Technology is providing us with tools to tackle gender inequality and empower women such as:
• Digital platforms, social media, medical and emerging technologies, have opened up avenues for
• Engagement in cultures where women’s physical mobility is restricted and their voices silenced
• Online activism, communitybuilding which increases awareness and engagement around women’s health and rights issues,
• Career opportunities and learning made is available online and in apps on mobile devices
• Women to set up businesses and earn income connecting to wider/global sources for financing, marketing and funding
• Femtech introduces technical solutions that address female health needs exclusively, including diagnostic tools, software, mobile apps and wearables
• Women participate in political campaigns and can have greater access to knowledge and general information.

This is technology used for the good and the result is seen in women empowered in areas like:
• Afghanistan, where women used Twitter to engage with a US Congressional hearing on women’s inclusion in peace and security in 2019
• East Africa and Philippines SPENN by Blockbonds is a Block chain app that is allowing secure money transfer and financial access for women in rural areas
• An Israeli company Mobile ODT offers cervical cancer screening leveraging and AI- based smartphone app
• In India, Egypt, Lebanon and in other countries Harrassmap is mobile/online platform using reporting and mapping to tackle sexual harassment.

Even with these advancements there is so much yet to be done. The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Political Empowerment. In 2020, it is indicated that it will take approximately 100 years for us to see gender equality globally.20 This is because:
• Outside of the US, women on average are 26 percent less likely than men to have a smart phone (In Africa, the proportion stands at 34 percent and in South Asia, it doubles to 70 percent.)
• Men hold 75% of parliamentary seats worldwide and 73% of managerial positions.
• Women are paid 16% less than men on average, rising to 35% less in some countries.
• 50 to 78% of women experienced gender discrimination at work.
• Nearly one in five women has faced domestic violence in the last year.

At least 60% of countries still discriminate against rights to inherit land and other assets. Raya Bidshari said, “When half of the human population is denied their full potential, the world as a whole is at an enormous disadvantage”. This is where the work remains. True women’s empowerment is for women to be full players in every area of society, with freedom to create, earn, own and build. That means being able to take full advantage of the benefits of technology and having a seat at the table. In the words of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, “Women belong in all places decisions are being made.”
• Women have to be in the board rooms and in government.
• Women have to be employed and be entrepreneurs.
• Women have to have access to healthcare and own the decisions for their bodies.
• Women have to be educated and be able to pave the way for those that follow.
• Women have to be included in history and make history.
• Women have to see themselves in positions in society and be seen by society

To see more women empowered, women need exposure, education and a real commitment to change that means
our collective willingness and courage to put down policies and systems of oppression and create opportunity. The words of the CEO of AWS, Andy Jassy says “we need missionaries not mercenaries.” People willing to do the work to make women equal and empowered.