Digitally savvy Irish women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace, according to a new report by Accenture (NYSE:ACN). 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.
At the current rate of digital adoption, Ireland, and other developed nations, likely won’t achieve workplace gender equality until 2065. But if government and business can double the speed at which women become frequent users of digital technology, gender equality in the workplace could be reached by 2040.
In Ireland, which was ranked 8 out of 31 countries surveyed, there was no measurable gender gap for digital fluency or education, according to the research model. There is a gap between men and women in the employment category and it increases as women try to advance to leadership positions. Compared to other countries, though, women’s progress in leadership was positive, with women in Ireland scoring in the top five.
The new Accenture report, 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.
“There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a particularly powerful avenue,” said Dr Michelle Cullen, Accenture MD and Head of Inclusion and Diversity. “This isn’t about qualifications in technology – it’s about using digital technologies to open up new avenues for women. For example, working from home gives flexibility, social media provides new ways to make connections and reduces the costs and barriers to setting up a business. 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.”
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 Ireland, four in 10 millennial and Gen X women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.
Additionally, the research found that, when women and men have the same level of digital proficiency, women are better at leveraging it to find work. Nearly 40 percent of all survey respondents – men and women combined—agreed that digital enables them to work from home; 38 percent said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives; and 44 percent report digital has increased access to job opportunities.
International Women’s Day
Over 1,200 attendees descended on the Convention Centre Dublin today for Ireland’s largest International Women’s Day (IWD) event. Organised by Accenture, and now in its 12th year, it celebrated the successes in gender equality over the last century and explored the developments that will take place over the next 100. The first Irish and female Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Prof. Louise Richardson delivered the keynote speech.
Michelle Cullen said, “This event brings together some of the leading Irish women from many walks of life to share their stories and perspectives across a variety of topics. In this centenary year, we are keen to honour and celebrate the achievements made by women in business and society generally and to turn our gaze to the future. We were also delighted to announce our Women on Walls project, a campaign by Accenture in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy, to create portraits of women academics and a lasting cultural legacy for Ireland in 2016.”
Other speakers on the ‘Legends’, ‘Trailblazers’ and ‘Youth’ panels included Dr. Rhona Mahony, Master, The National Maternity Hospital, Sharon McCooey, Senior Director of International Relations, LinkedIn and Niamh Scanlon, EU Digital Girl of the Year, amongst others.
The female figures in tech, media, human rights and education discussed a number of issues affecting women including pay equality, the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and gender equality as a human rights issue rather than a women’s issue.
To identify and better understand the role of digital fluency in workforce gender equality, the Accenture Digital Fluency Model was developed. A survey was conducted in December 2015 and January 2016 of more than 4,900 women and men in 31 countries to assess the extent to which people are using digital technologies in their personal and home life, as well as in their education and work. The sample included equal representation of working men and women, representing three generations (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) across all workforce levels at companies of varying size. The margin of error for the total sample was approximately +/- 1.4 percent. Digital technologies include virtual coursework, digital collaboration tools (webcams, instant messaging), social media platforms and use of digital devices, such as smart phones. Survey responses were combined with published reports and publicly available information on education, employment and leadership and research from the World Bank, the OECD, World Economic Forum and the ITU World Telecommunication. Countries included in the Model are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Greater China (includes Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, the Nordics (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialized skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 373,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.