Frequently asked questions
Equality Tech is technology that in itself advances equality.
Equality Tech products harness the inherent bias in technology to challenge harmful norms and stereotypes, and nudge us towards more inclusive behaviors.
Some argue that technology is neutral, and that it is how we use it that makes it “good” or “bad”. This line or argumentation disregards the fact that technology, including the digital products that are so ubiquitous to our lives, were in fact designed and developed by humans, who, in the process of creation, have had to make choices about what the product does (and does not), how it behaves (and does not behave), and what it looks like (and does not look like). In this process, the biases held by those involved will influence the choices made, resulting in digital products that reflect these biases.
No. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from human’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Biases can be both helpful and harmful.
Harmful biases are ones that result in one group, or an individual perceived to belong to that group, being systematically favoured over another or, conversely, a group or individual being systematically discriminated against because of who they are or are perceived to be.
The lack of diversity among the creators of technology is well-known. For example, only around a quarter of tech developers in leading tech sector companies are female.
As a result, many digital products that are used globally have in fact been designed and developed by a relatively homogenous group of people, mostly men from the global north. As such, these products often reflect the biases of this unrepresentative group and can therefore contribute to the reproduction and perpetuation of existing inequalities.
No. Tech developers do not need to set out to create a discriminating product for that product to discriminate. All humans hold both conscious and unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Humans belonging to the same or similar groups tend to hold similar biases. Given the lack of diversity in the tech sector, particular sets of biases – those usually predominantly held by men – are being reflected in the digital products that are increasingly ubiquitous in our lives.
The creators of technology and humankind more broadly will always hold unconscious biases, and these will always be reflected in digital products.
Put simply, technology cannot be neutral.
Equality Tech recognizes the inevitable bias of technology and harnesses that bias to advance equality.
There are many examples of biased tech that reproduces and reinforces harmful norms and stereotypes. With Equality Tech we seek to do the opposite: advance the development of digital products that reinforce more inclusive language and behaviors and challenge the harmful norms and stereotypes deeply embedded into our society.
By having technology which challenges harmful norms and promotes inclusivity, Equality Tech products contribute to deconstructing harmful narratives, subtly normalising positive stereotypes, and challenging ingrained and structural discrimination and inequality.
Technology has an enormous amount of influence in our society, in both intended and unintended ways. Technology holds the power to shape our lives and societies: in the past two decades, it has redefined how we start and nurture relationships and friendships, how we learn and work, what our hobbies are how we do them, how our societies function, and so much more. Society influences technology, and is in turn influenced by technological progress.
Diversity among the creators of technology is fundamental to really harnessing the power of tech to solve the many problems the world is facing. It is also a question of social justice. As the technology sector continues to grow , an ever greater number of well paid, stimulating and impactful roles are opening up. It is vital that people from diverse backgrounds have equal opportunity to take up these opportunities, otherwise social inequalities will only widen.
Diversity among the creators of the digital systems and products that we increasingly rely on also helps ensure these systems and products are safe and inclusive for all users. Without diversity there is a risk that we hard code discrimination into our future.
No. While Plan International is particularly interested in developing Equality tech product that advance gender equality and therefore seeks to work with girls and adolescent girls, any product that demonstrably challenges harmful norms and stereotypes and/or nudges its user towards more inclusive behaviours would be regarded as an Equality Tech product.
That said, given the tech sector currently dominated by men, we strongly encourage all Equality Tech products to be designed and developed with balanced participation of girls and adolescent girls in all their diversity.
Femtech is considered to be technological innovations that enhance women’s lives, such as birth control and period tracking apps and smart breast pumps.
Equality Tech is any technology that promotes equality by challenging the harmful gender norms and stereotypes that underpin our society and nudges us towards more inclusive behaviours. Equality Tech products do not have to exclusively respond to women and girl’s biological needs, but are inclusive digital products that challenge harmful norms and stereotypes associated with any non-dominant group, including girls and women.
We encourage everyone to create Equality Tech products!
You do not need to be in partnership with Plan International, however we would love to hear about your Equality Tech products and feature them on our website. Do not hesitate to reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can raise awareness of the consequences of bias in technology and the opportunities of harnessing the power of technology to advance equality by organising an Equality Tech workshop with us, or organising one yourself using our Facilitator’s Guide. We encourage you to develop your own Equality Tech ideas and look for partners to advance the concept further.
The term Equality Tech was coined by Nora Lindström, Senior Lead for Digital Programmes and Influencing at Plan International.