The gender gap in digital skills and jobs persists, but change is possible

The gender gap in digital skills and jobs persists, but change is possible

Despite digital skills levels between the genders being roughly equal in Europe, women only make up 18% of ICT specialist jobs and 20% of graduates in ICT subjects. Disparities are even more pronounced on the global level and worst in the global south. Equalising this discrepancy will take coordinated efforts on all levels of policy and society.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 published by the World Economic Forum, women’s active role in the labour market is globally decreasing, widening financial disparities between the genders. This trend is due to the fact that women are employed in sectors that are increasingly automatised. In addition, women are less likely to enter high-earning professions, as most of them are related to technology.

Gender inequalities are most pronounced in disruptive tech skills, which are strongly requested in emerging sectors like AI, robotics and cloud computing. According to the World Economic Forum,   women make up only 26% of AI jobs globally. The situation is even more dire in cloud and data, where the numbers are 15% and 12% respectively.

Has Europe achieved gender equality in tech?

The global digital gender gap is wide. Have we achieved a more equal situation in Europe? Not quite. The European Institute for Gender Equality published the Gender Equality Index 2020, dedicating a section on “Digitalisation and the future of work”. The index analyses three main variables: use and development of digital skills and technologies; digital transformation of the world of work; and broader consequences of digitalisation for human rights, violence against women and caring activities. The data shows only a slight difference in basic digital skills in men and women.

However, the gap seems to widen when we look at advanced and specialised digital skills. Few women specialise in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain during their tertiary studies. As a result, in 2018, just 20% of ICT graduates were women. This discrepancy naturally translates into even fewer female ICT professionals with only 17,7% of women pursuing an ICT specialist career in Europe. Why is that?

According to a study published by the European Commission in 2018, women are less encouraged to pursue a career in ICT: they seem to suffer from strong gender bias and stereotypes regarding their entrance into the labour market as ICT professionals. Moreover, women are still the main provider of care and domestic labour, consequently, they are more likely to adopt part-time contracts or leave their jobs at a young age.

Source: European Institute for Gender Equality (2020). Gender Equality Index 2020. Key findings for the EU. 

Gender inequality in digital skills and entrepreneurship is most pronounced in the global south

Concerning the global south’s situation, a 2018 report by IT for Change calls attention to the impact of the platform economy in developing countries, especially in rural areas. For instance, there is evidence that women in the food industry are negatively affected by the entrance of Western online food delivery services in their local market. On the other hand, women are among the demographics that can most strongly benefit from digital skills and entrepreneurial capacity-building. Having access to digital tools and possessing digital skills can help ensure women’s economic survival and empowerment.

Recognition and empowerment are at the core of advancing women’s role in the digital economy

To address the digital gender gap, the European Commission has launched the Women in Digital strategy. The strategy focuses on three main actions: fighting against digital gender stereotypes, promoting digital skills and education, and encouraging female entrepreneurship.

Gender equality in skills and beyond is a core priority for DIGITAL SME. The Alliance participates in EU funded projects with the aim of closing the digital skills gap in SMEs and among the genders. For instance, the Digital SkillUp project is dedicated to making basic knowledge on emerging technologies available and accessible to all Europeans, creating an online training space that offers learning content on topics like IoT, blockchain, robotics and automation, cybersecurity and trust. DIGITAL SME also contributed to the launch of the European Digital Skills and Jobs Platform which provides free access to high-quality information, training, and support, helping users advance their knowledge, further their careers, and add value to their organisations.

Fundamentally, bridging the gender gap in digital skills and beyond starts with the recognition that women and men are equal and deserve to be fully included in all aspects of the economy and society. This effort starts with abolishing stereotypes, providing equal chances, and recognising the powerful potential of an egalitarian society in which everyone can thrive.

If you would like to partner up with DIGITAL SME on promoting gender equality in the ICT sector, please reach out to office@digitalsme.eu!


This article was developed in the context of #skills4prosperity, a joint campaign by UNIDO‘s Learning and Knowledge Development Facility and the European DIGITAL SME Alliance.

by : Sofia Levorato on 2021-08-05 09:19:38

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