Despite decades of championing gender equality in the workplace, we’re not there yet. Some studies estimate it could take as long as another one hundred years to reach full gender parity. However, new research from Accenture indicates the most effective tool for closing the gender gap in the workplace might be right at our fingertips, and it could happen much faster than we think.

It turns out digital fluency (familiarity with and use of digital technology) could be the great gender equaliser. Accenture’s 2016 report on gender equality shows that the degree to which both men and women embrace digital technology influences how quickly and effectively the gender gap closes. And when women embrace digital technology, the gap closes even faster.

Digital fluency as a gender parity driver

Here’s what the study found. In general, digital technology adoption determines a person’s success in preparing for, finding, and keeping a job, as well as growing a career. However, women often lag behind men in embracing digital technology, despite their high take-up of social media and social collaboration tools outside of the work environment.

On the other hand, many women recognise the importance of digital fluency and are outstripping men in applying digital to take advantage of educational opportunities that can get them the jobs they want and help advance their careers. And while they still lag behind men in their level of digital fluency, they are gaining ground. They could gain even more ground with higher levels of organisational―and societal―support.

Why digital fluency matters

While it might seem obvious that gender parity is important, it’s worth spelling out some of the reasons why:

  • From a purely business perspective, companies are increasingly facing a shortage of qualified workers―and women comprise a substantial portion of the prospective workforce.
  • Companies that do a good job at providing career opportunities for women, including opportunities to increase digital fluency, stand to do a better job at capturing and keeping valuable female talent.
  • From a broader perspective, society as a whole will benefit when women reach gender parity in the workplace, as there is still significant global underemployment of women. Thus, there is a broad base of women available to fill open positions―with the right training and support.
  • For women, who have struggled for equality on many fronts for centuries, gender parity in the workplace is simply a must.

Statistics show that the higher the digital fluency in any given population (for example, country, company, or industry), the greater the equality between the sexes.

increased-digital-fluency-results-in-better-educated-women-accenture

This dynamic extends beyond the workplace, driving greater overall gender equality in general. In my next two posts of this three-part series, I’ll delve more deeply into how digital fluency is closing the gender gap and how HR professionals can help their firms maximise its effectiveness.

To learn more about closing the workplace gender gap through digital fluency, please see:

Getting To Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work

Harvard Business Review: Access to Digital Technology Accelerates Global Gender Equality

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