67th Commission on the Status of Women
“Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”
9/13 March 2023
The Holy See is pleased to participate in this Sixty-Seventh Session of the Commission on the Status of Women and welcomes the opportunity to examine both the opportunities and challenges of technology and innovation for women and girls.
As Pope Francis has observed, “even today, in many countries, women are considered second-class citizens… [and] are denied the opportunity to study, work, [and] employ their talents.” Education is essential for fostering societies which treat women and men equally. This begins within the family, the “fundamental group unit of society.” Parents can model healthy respectful relations between the sexes and positive models of socialization, including teaching digital safety skills. Protecting children online, particularly girls, requires providing parents with digital knowledge and online safety tools.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) can create lifelong learning opportunities for women and girls. Although not a substitute for in person schooling, remote learning has enabled girls to continue their studies during emergency situations. Online learning can also offer flexibility for women to study while balancing work and family responsibilities. This includes older women, who often lag behind in access to technology and in digital literacy. Additionally, ICTs are particularly important for engaging women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Women and girls are ready to seize these opportunities, but they must be given the tools to do so. In this regard, we cannot overlook the importance of eradicating poverty in order to achieve equality for women and girls. Women and children are more likely to live in poverty than men, increasing the risk of violence and exploitation. Social protection programmes play a pivotal role in reducing inequality, which increases access to technology. Without a strong international commitment to ensuring that the benefits of technological advancement are shared by all, women and girls in particular will fall further behind in our increasingly digital world.
Innovation must be directed toward the good of the person, or it risks harming those it should benefit, with women and girls the most frequent victims. The purchase of women and girls for sexual use in sex trafficking and prostitution increasingly relies on ICTs. Technology has also increased pornography consumption, including by children, with algorithms feeding perverse appetites for violence against women. The abuse of children, most of whom are girls, to create such materials, is particularly heinous, but all pornography is immoral and harmful; accepting it is incompatible with respect for women and girls.
Equality for women also requires accepting women fully, including their unique capacity for childbearing. Rather than employers accommodating family life, women are expected to accommodate their employers, often through the use of contraception. The offer by some companies of risky “egg freezing” benefits for future (and often unsuccessful) fertility procedures similarly places the burden on women rather than their employers. Women who do become pregnant often face financial and social pressures, including son preference and disability prejudice, to abort their children. On the other hand, practices such as surrogacy reduce women, many of whom are poor and vulnerable, to their reproductive capacities, commodifying both them and the children they bear. All these practices undermine the value of women and the respect that they deserve.
The Holy See encourages “the progress of science and technology at the service of the dignity of the person and for an ‘integral and integrating’ human development.” Women and girls’ gifts and capabilities should be cherished and nourished, including in the areas of innovation and technology. The Holy See and the many institutions of the Catholic Church will continue to contribute to efforts to ensure that technological developments include and benefit women and girls and ensure respect for their dignity.
 Pope Francis, Address to members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2023.
 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 16(3).
 Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Rome, 20 February 2023