Digital Fluency

By on Sep 20, 2016 in News

The world is facing a worker shortage. For the last few years, the World Economic Forum and others have been sounding the alarm on what they call “skills instability,” and many industries are scrambling to find qualified applicants. With women currently making up less than half of the global workforce, tapping into the gender gap could be the solution for the tech industry’s talent shortages.shutterstock_292062125

The best way to close the gap? Digital fluency.

A new study by Accenture reinforces this idea, declaring, “Because women are underrepresented in the workforce in most countries, they are a significant source of untapped talent.”

Digital Fluency

Accenture’s study makes it clear that increased access to learning and using digital media results in a smaller gender gap, in both opportunity and advancement.

“Our analysis highlights the importance of digital fluency in helping countries progress toward equality in the workplace,” explain the report’s authors. “Higher rates of digital fluency among women have higher rates of gender equality in the workplace.”

Defining the Gap

Accenture surveyed almost 5,000 women and men in 31 countries to measure their access to digital technologies, including smartphones, wearables, and other devices. Information gleaned from those surveys was cross-checked with data on internet usage gathered from the International Telecommunication Union (the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies).

Accenture researchers also looked at three specific areas when creating their template for gender equality. They investigated how women use education in preparation of finding work, how they go about actually looking for a job, and how they advance in their careers. This information was then compared with data from the World Bank and the OECD.

The numbers revealed ample evidence that digital fluency can “act as an accelerant in every stage of a person’s career.”

The Benefits of Digital Access

Women face a set of unique challenges when entering the workforce, including everything from maternity leave to what many perceive as a glass ceiling that limits career prospects. Rather than exacerbating these difficulties, the Accenture study reveals greater digital fluency could offer the ultimate solution, with tools designed for a liquid workforce able to remove the traditional tethers and increase organization flexibility.

“Organizations must focus on enabling people — consumers, workers and ecosystem partners — to accomplish more with technology,” say the study’s authors. “This growing use of technology will help everyone balance their personal and professional lives and access new opportunities in an evolving work environment.”

Another way technology is changing the employment landscape is through career advancement. More than half of the millennial women surveyed by Accenture aspired to eventually rise to a leadership position within their company. Digital fluency not only provides the tools for continued professional development, it also helps all workers aspire to prominent roles within their industry. Accenture respondents not only expressed a belief that they have the skills to achieve their goals, they pointed to a host of role models they felt they would be able to emulate in the future.

This positive outlook also transferred to future generations, with almost three-quarters of all respondents agreeing with the statement “the digital world will empower our daughters.”

Regional Variations

The U.S. may have a long way to go in terms of workplace equality, but the Accenture report reveals the U.S. has one of the smallest gender gaps of all countries studied. The report’s authors attribute at least part of the country’s more equal playing field to better digital fluency, which has allowed American women to make “significant progress in education, employment, and especially advancement.”

Unfortunately, Japan and India – two countries who’ve experienced great leaps within their tech industries – still lag behind when it comes gender parity. India had one of the lowest overall score of all the countries surveyed; Saudi Arabia and UAE were the only countries with lower scoers.

“These low scores are affecting women’s progress in employment,” warns the report.

For Japan, another country with marked gender inequality, the study’s authors blame societal standards for most of the imbalance, writing, “While digital fluency will help shrink some of these inequalities, it’s clear Japan as a nation will need to address long-standing cultural beliefs and practices before they can truly maximize their female talent.

Gendered Tech

In an in-depth interview with Buzzfeed Google CEO Sundar Pichai discussed why the gender divide in the tech industry needs to be overcome, and how access to digital resources can help.

“’My mom dropped out of high school for economic reasons, but she always was the one I turned to when I had difficulty with any of my schoolwork,’” he tells Buzzfeed. “ I could see the power of what she could contribute, but in some ways, she couldn’t fully realize it because she didn’t have access to education.”

“When you look at the internet, women account for less than one-third of the usage, and that number is much lower in rural areas, I think it’s an imperative for us to [improve access].”

Currently Google offers internet access to women in remote villages through Android phones and tablets. The devices also include detailed instruction on how they can be used for all manner of tasks. With an eye on bringing modern opportunities to rural Indian women, Google hopes to deliver internet access to 300,000 Indian villages by the end of 2018.

“When we live in the Western world, technology is constantly changing, and it’s a continuum. It’s happening to you all the time, and you take it for granted,” says Pichai.

“But if you step back, you realize, ‘Oh my god,’ it’s changing life in profound ways.”