Digital fluency can help close the gender gap faster in South Africa
By Lee Naik –
If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed nations and by 2060 in developing nations.
At Accenture, we want more. More women in our workforce, more female role models in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), more benefits for working parents. We want gender equality. We walk our talk, build our goals and principles into our workplace policies as well as social and enterprise development strategies.
Research is an important mechanism to spread awareness and underpin our efforts. Getting to Equal, Accenture’s digital fluency survey of nearly 5,000 men and women in 31 countries, shows that by being more digitally savvy, or digitally fluent, women can close the gender gap faster.
It’s a well-documented fact that women lag men in workplace equality. Different reports peg the time to gender parity at as much as 100 years. Our Getting to Equal research shows that nations with higher rates of digital fluency among women—such as the Netherlands, Nordic, United States and the United Kingdom—have higher rates of overall digital equality. Additionally, digital is helping to shorten that timeline and close the gender gap for women in the workplace by as much as 20 to 40 years.
What is digital fluency?
Digital fluency is the extent to which men and women embrace digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective. While our survey found that men in every country rate higher in terms of digital fluency, women are closing the gap fast.
The research shows that by boosting digital fluency, women can close the pay gap, level the playing field at work, improve access to employment and improve education outcomes.
- Nations with higher rates of digital fluency among women tend to have higher rates of equality in the workplace. Netherlands, Nordic, the United States and the United Kingdom rank amongst the best in terms of digital fluency for women. Japan, Singapore, France and Switzerland have the largest gaps between the digital fluency of men and women.
- Digital fluency accelerates women’s opportunities to participate in employment and is helping to close the gap between women and men. Digital gives women more opportunity to work flexibly—they will thrive as a wider variety of working arrangements, enabled by digital, replace traditional ways of working.
- Digital fluency has helped to change the game in education, leading to better outcomes for women and fuelling the trend for women to overtake men when it comes to attainment in tertiary education.
- When it comes to advancement—which includes gender pay equality—digital’s impact is still unclear. The survey responses show that men are by far the dominant earners by household.
How does South Africa fare?
According to our Getting to Equal survey, the country isn’t doing well but has a huge potential to grow.
Overall, South Africa ranked 21 out of 31 countries for digital fluency. Women and men in South Africa have relatively low digital fluency scores, with only a small gap measured between men and women in terms of digital fluency.
South African women’s scores for employment–i.e., the rate at which their ability to find and participate in work rises as digital fluency increases—are in the bottom three of the study. In addition, advancement scores, which measure how digital fluency accelerates the advancement of women in the workplace are low; about half that of the leading country in this category.
Education outcomes, which show how achievement in education rises as digital fluency increases, are also low, although women do marginally outperform men in South Africa in this category.
There is work to be done.
Women in South Africa (and men) need to become more digitally fluent. Individuals, businesses and government need to actively work toward, and support the achievement of greater digital fluency—for themselves and in their realms of influence.
Getting on the right side of the digital fluency gap can change the picture for women and for countries in dramatic ways. If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed nations, and by 2060 in developing nations. That’s 25 and 40 years faster, respectively, than the present rate of change allows.
The changes we are seeing in women’s lives as a result of digital fluency are here to stay. We welcome them and will continue to support attainment of digital fluency at all levels—in our recruiting, career development, business, and corporate social investment initiatives.