International Telecommunications Union and United Nations Women announced Tuesday that they have teamed up with Whurley to drive an intensive global engagement and outreach effort.
“I’ve been an advocate of the widespread access to information and technologies my entire career,” Whurley said in a news release. “These technologies have the power to change lives, reinvent industries and create entire new economies. Women and girls play a vital role and are fundamental to an ecosystem of innovation. Gender equality must be the focus of the technology industry if we are to continue to innovate in the future.”
ITU and UN Women launched on Tuesday Equals: the Global Partnership for Gender Equality in Digital Age, which will focus on getting more women to use information and communications technology worldwide to promote the empowerment of women. Today, 250 million fewer women are online than men, according to UN Women data. The global Internet user gap grew from 11 percent in 2013 to 12 percent in 2016. And in third world countries, the digital divide is even worse with a 31 percent the gap.
In particular, the new effort will focus on three areas of action including access with the goal of achieving equal access to digital technologies. The second goal is skills and empowering women and girls with skills to become ICT creators and lastly to focus on leadership to promote women as ICT leaders and entrepreneurs.
Whurley began working on issues of equality for women a few years ago.
“I have been advocating for women in STEM for some time now,” he said. “I started working with the UN ITU on the British Airways UnGrounded flight a few years ago. Since then I’ve become friends with most of the ITU staff so when Doreen Bogdan reached about starting a new effort to help meet the United Nations SDG goals for gender equality by 2030 I jumped on the opportunity.”
The organization is based at the ITU in Geneva, Switzerland with team members based around the world. Whurley has put together a small team in Austin that’s been helping with the initial efforts in getting the program kicked off.
“For me there simply couldn’t be a better cause to put my efforts into,” he said. “It’s something I’m extremely passionate about, have a lot of experience with, and most importantly an area where I can make an impact. I really feel that if more men got involved with programs like this we would be a lot further in solving the gender equality equation.”
Whurley plans to remain in his role at Honest Dollar, the Austin-based financial technology company which he co-founded that Goldman Sachs acquired earlier this year. He believes Austin can play a big role in helping the world to achieve gender equality.
“I believe that Austin can become an example for the world in this area,” Whurley said.”We live in a very progressive city. However even in Austin you can see some of the inequality Equals aims to address.”
How can people get involved?
“Right now we’re looking for people to help raise awareness of the issue, and the new organization,” Whurley said. “We’ve started a campaign where people take a photo of themselves making the “Equals sign” and tweet/post about it with the hash tag #beEquals. Organizations interested in partnering can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.”