Women will achieve workplace equality - in 2065

Research says closing the digital skills gap could be crucial, but it might take a while.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 23 Mar 2016

Do you want the good news, or the bad news? According to a computer model from Accenture, we will indeed achieve workplace gender equality if current trends continue (hurray) - but it won’t happen until 2065, when most of us will be retired (boo). Depressed? That’s just for the developed world. For the rest, it won’t happen until 2100.

The research was focused on digital fluency. It found a strong correlation between career progression and the use of such things as smart phones, wearables, online learning tools and instant messaging at work. It also found that women lagged behind men worldwide, but that the gap was closing (hence the projection of eventual workplace equality). Where the digital gap was narrower so too was the career gap.

The UK actually did quite well – of the 31 countries measured, it was fifth best both in terms of women’s digital fluency overall and the gap between men and women (in Argentina, Spain, South Korea and Ireland, women were equal to or ahead of men in this respect).

Women still lag behind men in the UK, but not as badly as they do in Japan. Source: Accenture

That’s not really much to cheer about though. Women still lag far behind men in terms of workplace participation in the tech sector, with dot com pioneer Martha Lane Fox telling MT in a soon-to-be-published interview that it was lamentable ‘there’s so few women in an industry that didn’t exist 30 years ago and had a chance to rebase itself’.  

We don’t have to take this lying down, of course. The report concluded that if governments can accelerate uptake of digital skills then workplace equality could be reached by 2040 instead (2060 in the developing world). Better, if not fantastic.

A pinch of salt

Digital skills are clearly increasingly useful in the workplace, but that could be said of other skills too. Just because there’s a correlation between digital equality and workplace equality, doesn't mean digital equality causes workplace equality. It could be that people with more digital skills also have higher levels of skill in other areas too, or tend to be in sectors that are more equal for cultural reasons.    

The sample size – 5,000 people across 31 countries – could do with being beefed up a little too. Nonetheless, it seems very likely that closing this perhaps unexpected gap in digital skills would help with equality more widely and should be encouraged – just don’t expect it to be a panacea.  

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