Accenture: Can harnessing the power of digital close the gender gap?

Zahra Bahrololoumi, a Managing Director at Accenture examines the affect the digital revolution is having on society and how it is transforming the workplace

 

 

We have all heard it so often, we’ve almost forgotten how true it is. Digital has changed everything.

It’s transformed every aspect of our lives and increasingly impacts those transactions we DON’T see – the dialogues between machines and systems; the data organisations gather on us and about us, and how they use it; the end to end processes behind our every interaction.

And then it surprises us.  It reveals a capacity to create societal change that we hadn’t seen coming. 

This week International Women’s day has once again refocused our minds on the importance of fielding your best team – and that the best team is diverse, innovative and multi-talented.  We can’t leave anyone on the bench.

Accenture has just completed research that reveals that digital is increasingly playing a pivotal role in enabling women in the workplace. And this has the effect of accelerating real social change – our research suggests that by harnessing the power of digital technology, advanced economies that ours in the UK, will be able to close the gender gap in 25 rather than 50 years.

The barriers that women experience in finding, and succeeding in work,  what we call “education to advancement”,  can be rapidly and significantly reduced by harnessing the changes occurring through the digital economy.  Flexible working (patterns, location, roles) coupled with the ability of digital technology to help entrepreneurial new businesses – mean that more and more women can both enter the workforce and manage their lives and careers more effectively.  In our research 63% of women and 50% of men are confident that digital has the power to level the playing field for women. Put simply women will thrive as traditional ways of working are replaced by the digital economy.

And when you look more closely at the research and break down the respondents by gender, those at the pointy end of the debate are feeling the effect. Women believe more strongly than men that their lives, their careers, their homes are being transformed by the flexibility and access that digital creates.  67% of women versus 58% of the men we asked believed that “digital is enabling more flexible ways to work that will allow more women to enter, remain, or return to the workforce”.  

The impact of this can only be accumulative as digital transforms the way education is accessed and the way women see their employment prospects.   And perhaps more than that – if we accept (and at Accenture we very much do) that it is vital that we get more women and girls into STEM careers – then the ubiquity of technology must have an impact of how comfortable girls and women feel in STEM careers.  As technology enables, empowers and even invades our lives – will more and more women feel that technology careers are less alien? Rather powerfully one statistic stands out from our research - 70% of women and 60% of men believe a digital world will empower their daughters.  

That alone may be the legacy many of us hold onto as navigate the disruption and challenge that digital presents – the Holy Grail some might say of the digital revolution – a generation of men and women whose working lives are transformed by the power of technology. 

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