TORONTO—Digitally savvy women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace. And digital fluency—the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective—plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and level the playing field.
A new research report from Accenture suggests 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.
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. 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,” said 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.”
Although digital fluency helps women advance in their careers, its impact has not closed the gender gap among executives or extended to pay equality. 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 Canada, 34 per cent of millennial and “Gen X” women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.
In Canada, 15 per cent more women report using digital to prepare for and find work than men (81 per cent and 66 per cent, 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. 35 per cent of all survey respondents—men and women combined—agreed that digital skill enables them to work from home and 42 per cent said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives. 42 per cent report digital has increased access to job opportunities.
Digital fluency among women in Canada is strong, ranking fifth among all countries surveyed, according to the research model. Canadian women did better than their male counterparts in using digital to secure and improve educational opportunities, but are behind when it comes to career advancement—one of the largest gaps between men and women across the report.