Women Entrepreneurs and the Digital Transition

As Policy Chair and Community Councilmember for the WEgate project promoting women-led entrepreneurship in Europe, DLI Director Cheryl Miller also leads the WEgate Thematic Group on Women Entrepreneurs and the Digital Transition (“Digital Transition TG”).

Over the course of 2022, the Digital Transition TG gathered to analyse and synthesise the impact of the digital transition on women entrepreneurs in Europe. Outcomes and recommendations from this work which address Ethics in AI, Gender and Cybersecurity, Tech-readiness of Women-led Startups, and the Gender Gap in Digital Skills, are captured in a policy brief published by the WEgate project on 22 January 2023.

Congratulations for this terrific outcome to WEgate Women Entrepreneurs and the Digital Transition Thematic Group members, Leïla Maidane, Isabel Bustos and Ms. Miller, under project leadership by Emilija Andonova and Gabriela Kostovska Bogoeska.

From the WEgate website:

One of the aims of WEgate is to increase the visibility of women entrepreneurs and to promote discussion on important topics for improving the conditions for women’s entrepreneurship development. To address critical areas of interest in women’s entrepreneurship development, dedicated WEgate Thematic groups (TGs) are formed as ad-hoc groups within the WEgate Community. The third WEgate TG is dedicated to Digital transition, analysing the challenges faced by women in the digital arena.

This policy brief summarizes the findings of the WEgate thematic group on women’s entrepreneurship policy. It highlights the key challenges and recommendations for policy-making in four areas: gender mainstreaming, evidence-based policy-making, finance and funding for women entrepreneurs, and stakeholders engagement in policy development. For each policy area, recommendations are being proposed, targeting policymakers at the European and national levels.

Download the WEgate Women Entrepreneurs and the Digital Transition Policy Brief (PDF) here.

Digital Equity for Women’s Economic Agency at STI Forum 2022

Online on 5 May 2022, 18:00-19:15CET / 12:00-1:15pm EST, the G20 Women20 European Union Delegation and Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute are proud to organize “Digital Equity for Women’s Economic Agency,” an official side-event of the UN ECOSOC’s 7th Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum).

Confirmed Speakers:

Format: This event will feature a Roundtable, with interventions by representatives of public and private organizations promoting women’s economic empowerment and closing the gender digital divide for economic recovery and sustainable development. A Question & Answer session open to the public will follow the Roundtable.

Moderator: The event will be moderated by Cheryl Miller, Co-head of the G20 Women20 European Union Delegation, and Director of the Digital Leadership Institute

Registration: This online event is open to the public and registration is required. The event will be organized on Zoom and accessed via the STI Forum Whova platform which is still in process. Those who register via Zoom will also have access. Please stay tuned.

Live Stream: The event will also be streamed live on the DLI YouTube channel.

Concept Note:

Anywhere in the world today, a woman is: 

  • Less likely to be online;
  • More likely to have low or no digital skills;
  • Less likely to be an IT professional; and 
  • Far less likely to launch a tech-driven enterprise.

As a result, women are at greater risk of being excluded by the digital disruption, a phenomenon exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

COVID has disproportionately impacted women—forcing millions out of the workplace, many permanently. In response, entrepreneurship is and will continue to be a key factor in sustaining financial independence for women and in reigniting the global economy.  In the digital society, such participation is increasingly linked to skills supporting both digitally-enabled and digitally-driven entrepreneurship.

However, a key characteristic of the digital disruption which cuts across geographic locations and socio-economic conditions is that, no matter where they are in the world, women are less likely to be online than men. Of the Earth’s 7.8 billion human population, men make up thirty percent and women twenty-five percent of people who are online, reflecting 195 million fewer women online overall. Despite a surge in online participation during the COVID pandemic, the rate at which women go online continues to lag behind. This ubiquitous and persistent trend represents the digital divide compounded by the gender gap which, without focused effort to address it, risks widening.

In countries where digitalization has a firmer hold, women are still less likely to have digital skills, take up formal computer science or other STEM studies, or hold technical and leadership roles in IT organizations. Globally, the founder of a digitally-driven enterprise is five times more likely to be a man than a woman, and in many places the ratio is closer to ten-to-one.

In addition to the yawing social divide this reality reflects, italso represents a loss for the global economy and for women themselves who are unable to fully realize their potential as economics actors in an increasingly digital society. In 2013, the UN reported that bringing 600 million women and girls online could boost global GDP by up to $18B. A European study of the same period suggests that equal participation of women in the ICT sector would contribute as much as €9B annually to the European economy. Especially as a response to the COVID-induced “She-cession,” action to tackle the gender digital divide presents an opportunity to improve women’s economic agency, address the digital skills and job gap, and promote a pathway toward sustainable development.

Regardless of geography, closing the gender digital divide presents a critical factor in ensuring women’s economic agency, previously and again at present, in order to promote economic development. This focus has the advantages of limiting the risk of further marginalization of women as a result of the digital disruption, addressing the global IT skills gap, filling tech jobs that otherwise go unfilled, and of supporting a woman’s pathway to economic agency in the workforce and as an entrepreneur whose work is digitally-enabled and/or tech-driven.

As such, the greatest single driver of economic recovery exiting the COVID pandemic, and that which will most contribute to sustainable development going forward, will be action supporting digital equity for women’s economic agency at the intersection of promoting women’s economic empowerment (WEE)—with women as entrepreneurs,  equal actors in the workforce, and leaders across the board—and closing the gender digital divide (GDD).

Questions: The event will investigate the following questions: 

  • What is the economic impact of the gender digital divide and the opportunity presented by closing it?
  • What is the state-of-play regarding development action that focuses on tackling the gender digital divide and promoting women’s economic empowerment? 
  • What indicators and best practices may be employed to support digital equity for women’s economic agency as a pathway to economic recovery and sustainable development?

Topics: The event will address the topics of women’s economic empowerment, the gender digital divide, gender equality, woman’s rights, inclusive digital transformation, digital financial inclusion, access to finance, online safety, digital equity, digital skills, STEM skills, women-led entrepreneurship, economic recovery, building forward better from COVID, diversity, equity, inclusion, women in peacekeeping and conflict avoidance, women migrants and refugees, women in leadership, women in innovation, female founders, the SDGs, sustainable development goals, and sustainable development.


The recent withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan after twenty years of occupation created a power vacuum and resurgence of domestic forces that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.  The clamping down on human rights and freedoms, especially impacting girls and women, is forcing flight of hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals to other parts of the globe. Some of the most high profile evacuations have been of the Afghan Girls Robotics and Girls Soccer teams. There are thousands of harrowing evacuation stories, not all of which have been successful, and countless more at-risk girls and women are still living in uncertainty in Afghanistan. 

In her role as Head of EU Delegation to the G20 Women20 stakeholder interest group, Cheryl Miller, DLI Director, played an instrumental role in delivering a Declaration of Support for Afghan Women and Girls to G20 leaders, including EC President von der Leyen and US President Biden, ahead of a 24 August urgent G7 meeting on Afghanistan. President von der Leyen’s remarks there focused on the plight of Afghan girls and women: “We need to help mostly those who are at immediate risk. And those are women, girls and children, who make up the vast majority of internally displaced people – 80% of the internally displaced people in Afghanistan are women and girls.”

As Afghan refugees attempt to make their way to other countries, they will need support – for evacuating from Afghanistan, arriving to a new location, and in assimilating long-term as economic, political and social actors in their adopted homes. An initiative called Women4Afghanistan was launched by Anne Ravanona and Katharina Miller, EU delegates to the G20/W20, in order to rally support for Afghan girls and women on this path.  More information on how to contribute to this critical work may be found here: 


As Afghan refugees arrive and begin the process of integrating into their new home communities, it will be up to programs like AMIF and the ATHENA project to specifically support Afghan women and their sister refugees from around the world, by delivering on its remit to promote entrepreneurship by women migrants. DLI and the ATHENA partners look forward to the opportunity to support the women and girls of Afghanistan, and women migrants from all over the world, in integrating and achieving financial independence for these most vulnerable. 

DLI Founder is EU Digital Champion

On 21 November in Brussels, Cheryl Miller Van Dyck, founding director of the Digital Leadership Institute International (DLII.org), was recognised by the Financial Times and Google as one of 100 digital champions of Europe.  Miller Van Dyck, who for ten years has led global efforts to increase participation of girls and women in technology sectors, was credited as being a leader and influencer in “promoting digital transformation in Europe.”  Miller Van Dyck and her 99 cohorts were selected from among over 4000 nominations by a jury of their peers representing industry and the public sector.  The digital champions report and event are part of an ongoing Financial Times series on “Europe’s Road to Growth.”

Read the full report here (Article/Image Page 21).

Support Digital Inclusion at the G20

On 28-29 May, as part of the OECD Forum in Paris, DLI Director, Ms. Cheryl Miller, joined a group of international delegates for a W20 Roundtable on Digital Inclusion as part of G20 meetings hosted by Argentina in 2018.  The W20 Paris gathering, attended by representatives of twelve countries and key public and private sector actors, resulted in the W20 Argentina 2018 Communiqué on Digital Inclusion which will be promoted at the Women 20 Summit taking place 30 September to 3 October 2018 in Buenos Aires.

Individuals and organizations are encouraged to share the findings of the W20 Communiqué on Digital Inclusion with their G20 decision-makers and representatives in order to garner support for its broader acceptance and uptake by the G20 in 2018.

The aim of W20 is to influence the agenda of the decision-making bodies of the G20 with a view to impacting public policies in order to increase women’s participation in the economies and societies of their countries.

DLI Founder Appointed to EU Digital Skills Board

On 28 September in Brussels, Ms. Cheryl Miller, Founder and Director of the Brussels-based Digital Leadership Institute, joined the first meeting of the Governing Board of the European Commission’s Digital Skill and Jobs Coalition, to which Ms. Miller has been appointed for a two-year term.

According to the Commission, the aim of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Governing Board is to “provide strategic leadership and give high-level advice to improve the functioning and the impact of the Coalition, as well as monitoring its overall progress.” The Governing Board also represents the views of the Coalition partners at European level, and acts as a link between pledgers, national Coalitions and social partners.

At its first meeting, Ms. Miller accepted to lead the Governing Board’s work on “digital skills for ICT experts,” one of four digital skills pillars treated as priorities by the Coalition.  Ms. Miller and her colleagues will provide recommendations in these areas to the new European Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, Ms. Mariya Gabriel, in the context of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition Conference, taking place in Brussels on 7 December.

Ms. Miller joins representatives of eleven other Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition stakeholders in the Governing Board, whose organisations represent pledging members, national coalitions, and Coalition social partners.

DLI Launches Europe’s First Female Tech Incubator

On 25 October in Brussels, the Digital Leadership Institute launched Digital Brusselles, Europe’s first female tech incubator, with the mission of promoting inclusive digital transformation by increasing leadership of girls and women in the digital society. The launch event, which took place as part of the first Open Door Day at BeCentral, was supported by the Digital Belgium Skills Fund and dozens of DLI partners, and attended by hundreds of DLI community members.

Ms. Saskia Van Uffelen, CEO of Ericsson Belux and Digital Champion of Belgium, provided a keynote to kick off the launch event and was joined in a panel on “The Heart of Inclusive Digital Transformation,” moderated by Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, by luminaries from the Belgian and European technology ecosystem noted below:

The opening panel was followed with inspiring talks by Ms. Manon Van Hoorebeke, 2014 Digital Girl of the Year, and Ms. Christine Gerpheide, Senior Cloud Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services. Over the course of the afternoon, Ms. Sandrine Droubaix — DJ Sand — and Ms. Valentina Càla, DLI Digital Creative Officer, led hands-on digital music composition workshops for participants of the Digital Muse After School program and BeCentral’s Open Door Day .

Towards Inclusive Digital Transformation in Europe

The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed. – William Gibson

The world is becoming digitised at an unprecedented rate. The advent of the internet, mobile devices and cloud-working has put vast connectivity and computing power in the hands of individuals at the most personal level, the world over. Since 2000, subscriptions for mobile services in the world have grown ten-fold to seven billion, and today, 3.5 billion people are online, most of whom are located in developed countries (ITU). By 2020, it it is estimated that people will be joined on the Internet by more than 50 billion objects, only one percent of which are connected today (Cisco). The future scope of digitisation is staggering, and the speed of its onset, and apparent inevitability, has given rise to what is called “digital disruption.” The consequences of this digital disruption—for our lives, the planet and our fellow creatures—are still largely unknown.

Digital disruption is impacting the technology sector itself, where demand for skills and the computing power to fuel the transformation is far outstripping our collective ability to keep up. Digitisation is affecting non-tech industries too, where market leaders in sectors like financial services, energy and even government are reinventing themselves as “digital” organisations. The rate of digital transformation represented by consumer-focused cloud computing, whose generated revenue is predicted to quadruple over the next ten years to $173B, will be further dwarfed by the coming of age of the “Industrial Internet.” Digital transformation of the world’s power and production facilities, connected across a digital landscape populated by massive amounts of data, is heralding the fourth Industrial Revolution, and is predicted to add €422B in value to German industry alone by 2025 (BITKOM, Fraunhofer).

While we are starting to get our heads around what digital disruption is and what it means, it is also important to understand what it is not. Not all continents—let alone countries—enjoy large bandwidth and high availability online access today, and fifty-three percent of people in the world are not online. This situation belies a harsh reality underpinning the digital disruption: Not everyone is on board.

The Digital Divide

As digital transformation goes, Europe enjoys an unrivalled position in the world. Twenty-five EU countries score higher than the OECD average for ICT indicators, and nine out of the ten nations with the fastest broadband in the world are located in Europe. As ITU figures suggest, however, differences in broadband speed persist, and a “digital divide” among regions of the world which parallels socio-economic realities, is clearly observable. In 2016, more than half of the world’s population — 3.9 billion people — remain offline, and of the nearly one billion people living in the Least Developing Countries (LDCs), 851 million do not use the Internet.

Among regions of the world, a second, persistent phenomenon may also be observed that cuts across geographic locations and even socio-economic conditions. Around the globe, no matter where they are, women as a demographic are less likely to be online than men, and despite its apparent leadership, Europe’s women are also getting left behind. Of the three and a half billion people online in the world, eighteen percent are men and sixteen percent are women, reflecting 200 million fewer women online overall. In Europe, of the twenty-one countries for which the ITU collected sex-disaggregated data in 2015, men enjoy greater online access than women in eighteen countries. In addition, the rate that women come online is slower than men, which means that the digital divide thus compounded by the gender gap risks deepening.

Towards Inclusive Digital Leadership

In addition to generally enjoying less online access, European women have fewer digital skills than men, they are less likely to engage in formal Computer Science studies, and they hold twenty percent or less of technical and leadership roles in ICT organisations. Tech entrepreneurs are five times more likely to be men than women, and in some places this ratio closer to 100:1. In leadership across the board, including in the technology sector, women make up only four percent of corporate CEOs and they hold less than fifteen percent of board roles in the private sector. Since the tech sector is both a key driver of digitisation as well as a reflection of the general digitisation of a society, diversity in this sector is particularly indicative of digital inclusiveness.

Where digital skills are concerned, for the seven-year period from 2005 to 2012 during which sex-disaggregated Digital Scorecard data was collected by the European Commission, research showed a consistent and persistent lag in the digital skill-levels of European women. When overall skill-levels increased or decreased across EU member states, a corresponding shift in women’s skill sets was also reported. In every case a lag remained, roughly representing a ten percent difference between the genders. These percentages represent the following absolute numbers:

2012 – EU Population: 502M people

  • Men: 49% or 246M people in Europe
  • Men with medium-high computer skills: 57% or 140M people
  • Men with low or no computer skills: 43% or 106M people
  • Women: 51% or 256M people in Europe
  • Women with medium-high computer skills: 46% or 118M people
  • Women with low or no computer skills: 54% or 138M people

For a European population of 560 million people in 2015, Eurostat data for individuals with basic, no or low digital skills, shows the following evolution:

2015 – EU Population: 560M people

  • Men: 49% or 274M people
  • Men with basic, low or no digital skills: 50% or 137M people
  • Women: 51% or 286M people
  • Women with basic, low or no digital skills: 52% or 149M people

From this data, the following may be concluded:

  • 286 million people, or over half of Europe’s population, have basic, low or no digital skills;
  • 149 million people of Europe’s digitally under-skilled, or 27% of the total EU population, are women;
  • 12 million more women than men in Europe, or 2% of the total EU population, are digitally under-skilled; and
  • These numbers reflect a significant and persistent trend.

Although devolution in European digital skills over the 2005-2015 period may be explained by expansion of the European Union and changes to data collection approaches, the following facts are clear:

A woman in Europe is:

  • Less likely to be online;
  • More likely to be digitally under-skilled; and
  • At greater risk of being excluded from the digital disruption underway.

Towards Inclusive Digital Transformation

Like online access, digital skill levels are an excellent indicator of the general education and economic integration of a given demographic, and they are an even stronger litmus test of how well that demographic is engaged in the digital transformation afoot. As such, the situation described above represents vast lost potential to Europe and to the young and adult women of Europe who are unable to fully realise their place as productive members of our increasingly digital society. A risk exists that the needs of these women go unheeded and the benefits of engaging them in the further digitisation of European society go unrealised.

A 2013 European Commission report demonstrated that equal participation of women in the ICT sector — as a quick-win to address the growing skills and job gap in Europe — would contribute as much as €9B to the European economy every year. A UN study in the same period linked every ten percent increase in access to broadband with a 1.38% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for developing countries, and noted that bringing 600 million additional women and girls online specifically could boost global GDP by up to $18B. The increasing rate of digital disruption could certainly serve to further compound the upside potential shown here as much as it could multiply the downside risk from exclusion that is already happening.

For this reason, the present Manifesto explicitly supports priority-setting, resources and action at the EU level that accomplishes the following:

  • Curtail the risk of further digital exclusion of Europe’s 286 million women;
  • Close the digital skills gap impacting women in Europe; and
  • Maximise the opportunities presented by engaging Europe’s women to actively design, build and lead Europe’s digital transformation.

To this end, the Manifesto seeks to promote, scale and replicate initiatives that increase ESTEAM—including digital—skills for girls and women and prepare them to lead Europe’s digital transformation. Such initiatives embody best practices of the following kind:

  • Focus on girls and women specifically;
  • Promote female role models in tech, and more generally;
  • Stimulate learning through hands-on, result-driven and values-oriented activities;
  • Develop a rich, diverse and widespread community of European female digital leaders in the public and private sector, including entrepreneurship.

Many world-class initiatives of the foregoing kind have been developed and carried out in Europe by the Digital Leadership Institute and its partners.

*Reprinted from The e-Skills Manifesto, Chapter 10: Towards Inclusive Digital Transformation, written by Cheryl Miller, Cofounder, Digital Leadership InstituteCheck against printed copy.

DLI Update – March 2016

March has been a roller-coaster of a month at the Digital Leadership Institute. It roared in like a lion celebrating International Women’s Day with DLI’s favorite Belgian and international stakeholders, and went out like a lamb seeking community with loved ones near and far in the wake of the Brussels tragedies that DLI Founder, Ms. Cheryl Miller and so many others experienced first-hand.  In between, we advocated for greater participation of women in media, peacekeeping and global leadership at the annual Commission on the Status of Women in New York, and brushed up our expertise portfolio with Ms. Rosanna Kurrer–DLI Cofounder’s graduation from a Certified Trainer in Mobile Educational Computing program at MIT.  Herewith you can find details about it all shared with, as Cheryl wrote, the expression of our heartfelt grief for the people whose losses are so much greater than ours, and a wish for continued vigilance on all our part in the work for peace.

The DLI Board and Executive Team are actively involved in initiatives with partners and stakeholders around the world that promote ESTEAM* leadership by girls and women. Find out below about our work in March 2016, learn here about future activities we are involved in, and visit our calendar for upcoming events that DLI is organising. *entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics

EP2 March – European Parliament Media Conference “Women Refugees & Asylum-seekers in Europe” (Brussels): In celebration of International Women’s Day 2016, Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, moderated a conference for European media on the subject of “Women Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Europe,” which took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on 2 March.

us seal7 March – US Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium Roundtable on “Civil Society as Change Makers” (Brussels): On 7 March, Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder,  joined a roundtable on the subject of “Civil Society as Change Makers,” on invitation from her Excellency Denise Campbell Bauer, US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium.

useu8 March – US Mission to the European Union Roundtable on “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in the Tech Sector” (Brussels):  Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, contributed to a moderated roundtable on the subject of “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in the Tech Sector,” hosted by the US permanent mission to the European Union in Brussels in celebration of International Women’s Day 2016.   The event was part of a pan-European initiative to promote greater participation of women in tech on the part of the US Commercial Service in Europe and led by the honorable Penny Pritzker, US Secretary of Commerce.  Photos of the Brussels event, attended by leading policy players in Belgium and Europe, may be found here.

codeweek-badge10 March – European Code Week Ambassadors Meeting (Brussels):  On 10 March, Ms. Rosanna Kurrer, DLI Cofounder, joined the annual meeting of European Code Week Ambassadors as 2016 Ambassador for Belgium.

GSMA_logo15 March – GSMA Mobile Meeting Series “Digital economy: Balancing inclusion, opportunities, and access for women” (Brussels):  On 15 March, Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, contributed to a GSMA Mobile Meeting breakfast on the topic of  “Digital economy: Balancing inclusion, opportunities, and access for women,” report for which may be found here.

Facebook18 March – Facebook Roundtable on “Women’s Online Safety” (New York, New York):  Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, contributed to an international roundtable on the topic of  “Women’s Online Safety,” that took place at Facebook New York HQ as part of the 60th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

gamag19 March – GAMAG Europe & North America Panel at 60th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (New York): Ms. Cheryl Miller, DLI Founder, moderated a Global Alliance on Gender and Media panel at the 60th Meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, that took place at the United Nations in New York, on 19 March.


Be sure to visit our Calendar, Upcoming Activities page, and sign up for the DLI Newsletter in order to keep up with DLI events and activities!