TomorrowMakers

The gender gap can be closed at Indian workplaces by going digital. Read to know-how

How digital fluency can help women close the gender gap at workplaces

According to a 2017 report published by the World Bank, India ranked 120 out of 131 countries in female participation in the workforce. Only 27% of Indian women were part of the workforce, which is even lower than Bangladesh (over 28%), Sri Lanka (36%), and Nepal (80%).

One may assume that after liberalisation and the turn of the millennium, the number of women in Indian workplaces would have increased. But data shows that almost 20 million women dropped out of the workplace between 2005 and 2012. To put it in perspective, this is equivalent to the entire population of Sri Lanka!

Unfortunately, Indian women contribute only 17% to the country’s GDP whereas, in China, women contribute close to 40%.

How digital fluency can help women close the gender gap at workplaces

Using a digital bridge to close the gap

One way to close this gap is by encouraging women to develop digital skills. Digital skills can be developed by using digital technologies such as virtual coursework, collaboration tools, communication platforms, and SAAS products along with digital devices that include smartphones and tablets. 

How going digital can help

Indian women are in a unique situation. Though female literacy has been steadily increasing, female participation in the labour force has been waning. Some reasons include sociological factors such as fear among women in Indian cities to work late, and many quit due to lack of childcare support. Orthodox views held by families also inhibit mobility for women. 

Changing these beliefs may take time, but in the meantime, going digital can help women earn more. Acquiring digital fluency enables women to work from home and continue to remain productive. This enables them to maintain a better balance between work and home. Even self-employed women can sell products over online marketplaces to a global audience.

Access to jobs increases by more than 500% if one leverages digital skills. This is a vital statistic because out of 92% of Indian women who wish to resume work after a break, 72% don’t want to resume working with the same employer. Digital skills enable women to secure access to employment. More and more women can use digital skills to search and prepare for job interviews. It has also been found that women are better at using digital skills to find work.

In India, 75% of Gen X and Millennial women aspire for leadership positions. Women can develop their digital confidence by upskilling themselves by pursuing credible online courses. They can attend leadership training sessions online. This opens up opportunities to scale up and secure senior management roles.

Digital skills lead to real rewards

Accenture published a research report that assessed close to 5000 working men and women across 31 countries. It concluded that if the pace at which women acquire digital fluency doubles, gender equality can be achieved within 45 years in developing countries as compared to a disappointing 85 years otherwise.  

India’s potential GDP growth rate can be boosted by 1.4% or $700 billion if the female labour force is increased by 10%. According to a study conducted by Catalyst, companies with the highest number of women in top management offer better return on earnings (35% higher) and total return to shareholders (34%). 

A 2014 study by Gallup of more than 800 business units from two companies belonging to different industries – hospitality and retail – showed that gender-diverse business units generated 14% more revenue than those dominated by men.

A real-life example from Bihar

Steve Jobs once cited a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species. The condor used the least amount of energy to move a kilometre and topped the list. Humans ranked way below. However, a man on a bicycle ended up being the most efficient, even blowing the condor away. This had caused Jobs to famously remark “The computer is the bicycle of the human mind”. 

Almost as a testament to Jobs’ observation, the Bihar government distributed bicycles to schoolgirls in 2007. What was at the time seen as a populist move resulted in a 300% increase in enrolment of girl students within five years. During the same period, only 1 million girls dropped out as compared to 2.5 million in 2007.

The impact that digital skills will have on increasing female participation at workplaces would be no less than what the computer had on the human mind or bicycles on increasing female literacy in Bihar. Tearing down the gender imbalance in India’s workplace is critical to achieving both social and economic progress. Read this to understand where do Indian women stand in terms of the gender pay gap. 

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