Study: Digital Fluency Will Accelerate Pay Equity

New research suggests that increasing women’s digital savvy will double the pace of progress toward pay equity around the world.

Although women still face a persistent gender pay gap, a new study suggests that their increasing digital know-how will help accelerate the pace of change toward pay equity.

The study, Getting to Equal: How Digital Is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work, by global professional services company Accenture, sheds light on how women are using digital skills to their strategic advantage at all stages of their careers, from finding employment to advancing at their current organizations.

This is a powerful message for all women and girls. Continuously developing and growing your ability to use digital technologies … has a clear and positive effect at every stage of your career.

“There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a very promising avenue,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s group chief executive for North America, in a statement announcing the research earlier this month. “This is a powerful message for all women and girls. Continuously developing and growing your ability to use digital technologies, both at home and in the workplace, has a clear and positive effect at every stage of your career.  And it provides a distinct advantage, as businesses and governments seek to fill the jobs that support today’s growing economy.”

The research examined nearly 5,000 workers in 31 countries to assess their “digital fluency,” which the study defined as “the extent to which both men and women have embraced digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected, and effective.” It evaluated participants’ familiarity with a variety of digital technologies, including smartphones and other devices, social media platforms, virtual coursework, and collaboration tools like webcams and instant messaging.

The researchers found that while men, in nearly all contexts studied, outperformed women on measures of digital fluency, that gap is narrowing—and that progress has significant implications for pay equity.

“If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved in 25 years in developed nations, versus 50 years at the current pace. Gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace,” according to the study.

Nations where women had higher rates of digital fluency also scored higher on other metrics of gender equality, the study found. In 16 of the 31 countries studied, women were better educated in general than men.

The continuing focus on STEM education and the entry into the workforce of “digital natives” are increasing the number of digitally fluent workers of both genders, increasing pay overall, the study noted. And among millennial women, roughly six in 10 aspire to leadership positions—a goal that will likely be easier to realize with a cutting-edge skill set.

Despite the continuing  pay gap, respondents overwhelmingly envisioned a brighter future, driven in part by the promises of employment and advancement that digital skills bring. Seventy-six percent of men and 79 percent of women reported that women have more opportunities than ever before, and nearly three-quarters of men and women alike asserted that “the digital world will empower our daughters.”


Newton Holt

By Newton Holt

Newton Holt, a former senior editor of Associations Now, is a freelance writer, editor, and communication strategist in Washington, DC. MORE

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