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Digital skills closing the workplace gender gap?

By Shannon Williams, Tue 8 Mar 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Digital skills may be helping to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, according to Accenture.

New research from the company says digital fluency plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and the level the playing field, saying the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective will have an impact on the workplace gender gap.

According to Accenture, the research, Getting to Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work, provides empirical proof that women are using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for work, finding work and advancing at work. 

“While women still lag behind men in digital fluency in all but a handful of countries, improving their digital skills can change the picture,” the company says.

If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved in 25 years in developed nations, versus 50 years at the current pace, the research suggests. Likewise, gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace.

“Women represent an untapped talent pool that can help fill the gap between the skills needed to stay competitive and the talent available,” explains Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s chairman and chief executive officer.

“There is a clear opportunity for governments and businesses to collaborate on efforts that will empower more women with digital skills – and accelerate gender equality in the workforce,” he says.

Although digital fluency helps women advance in their careers, its impact has not closed the gender gap among executives -- or extended to pay equality, the research shows. 

Men are still, by far, the dominant earners by household for all three generations. This will change as more millennial women and digital natives move into management. 

The research found that, in Australia, 38% of millennial and gen X women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.

In Australia, more men than women report using digital to prepare for and find work (77% and 71%, respectively). Yet, the research found that overall, when women and men have the same level of digital proficiency, women are better at leveraging it to find work.

More than 30% of all survey respondents – men and women combined—agreed that digital enables them to work from home, 38% said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives and 41% report digital has increased access to job opportunities.

Australia is the third most digitally fluent country among all countries surveyed, according to the research model, and is number 1 when it comes to education. 

Australian women did much better than their male counterparts in using digital to secure and improve educational opportunities.

Additionally, Australia ranks second when it comes to digital’s influence on women’s advancement at work; only one country had a higher score for women’s advancement (the United States).

“There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a particularly powerful avenue,” adds Jordan Griffiths, Accenture Australia Inclusion & Diversity Lead.

“Although gender equality will not happen overnight, investments made in building women’s digital skills — through education, training and on-the-job learning — will help speed their progress at every career stage.

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