Mind the Gap: Especially for
Women in Tech
Women remain under-represented in STEM-related fields, despite the increased priority placed on these subjects.
A technological revolution and major demographic trends are reshaping labour markets around the world as the “future of work” unfolds. How we work, the nature of jobs and the value of certain skills are rapidly evolving. These changes are predicted to accelerate in the years ahead and will have profound implications for gender equality in the workplace. Here are a few indicators illustrating how future trends will impact women in the workforce:
- In OECD countries, automation could replace 11% of the female workforce (who tend to perform more routine tasks), compared to 9% of the male workforce, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) notes that in Asia, more than 80% of their garment, textile, and apparel manufacturing jobs could be lost, as “sewbots” replace humans in factories. This would disproportionately affect young women, who make up the majority of the garment industry workforce.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also require new skills in which female representation varies across countries. The World Economic Forum (WEF), in partnership with LinkedIn, note Germany, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, as the countries with the largest gender gap. Globally, 22% of AI professionals are female, while in Argentina, women make up only 17% of this talent pool.
At GAN, we see many potential opportunities for women, especially in the tech fields. Human skills such as creativity and social and emotional intelligence are increasingly important and complementary to technology. These are skills typically associated with women. Yet, women remain under-represented in (STEM)-related fields, despite the increased priority placed on these subjects across the globe.
According to the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), females make up only 35% students in STEM-related fields of higher education, and 28% in communications technology. In Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, achievement in math in secondary education leans more favourable towards boys. In urban poor areas women are 50% less likely than men to be online, with Kampala and Nairobi having the largest gaps, impacting female economic and political participation and empowerment in these communities.
However, regional differences do point to some optimism. For example, Latin America boasts the region with the second highest proportion (44%) of women researchers in the world, as shown during a 2016 Gender Summit in the Americas. We owe it to ourselves and our communities to strengthen women’s participation in high-growth occupations. Reaping the benefits of technology for women to fully and equally participate in the labour force will require a concerted effort from both private and public spheres and will need to start early on in education so that transitions to the workplace are smoother.
With women representing half of the world’s total talent pool, their equitable participation could have a tremendous bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide as we move into an era ripe with new opportunities in which skills and competencies are likely to be the key differentiator. The potential win-win is tremendous! Closing the digital divide will help tackle the skills shortage businesses are facing, enhance innovation, raise quality of life for millions of people, and increase prosperity by adding as much as 12 trillion USD to the world’s global GDP each year, according to McKinsey Global Institute report. The report also shows huge potential depending on the region. For example, in Latin America, its GDP could increase by 14% by 2025.
A number of governments, companies, non-profits and donors are taking action to bridge the digital divide by implementing forward-looking programs across value chains and geographies. For example, Microsoft, a GAN member, has rolled out initiatives around the world to support girls entering STEM professions by training teachers, finding mentors, teaching digital skills, providing learning certificates and qualifications, and making their technology freely accessible. Similarly, GAN member Accenture is collaborating with Girls Who Code to help close the gender gap in technology by equipping young women with computing and professional skills. Accenture’s investment in Girls Who Code reflects its belief that attracting, retaining and advancing women is critical to being a high-performance business. In fact, there are approximately 170,000 women at Accenture—more than 40 percent of its global workforce.
GAN is delighted to join the Latin American Women in Technology today through our network in Costa Rica to promote more opportunities for women by building partnerships with companies, governments, and civil society. By recognizing the opportunities that the changing nature of work is creating for women and girls in the workforce of the future, we create a win-win for businesses, economies and societies that will help foster sustainable development for all.