The digital gender gap refers to the unequal distribution of access, use, and knowledge of digital technologies between men and women and in some contexts within the UK, it’s more persistent than ever.
Before we start, it’s important to acknowledge that the disadvantages of the gender divide are of course, much more severe across certain parts of the globe. Countries like the UK are not plagued with inequalities in the same way as developing countries are, but unfortunately, no country is free of it own digital divide.
Seeing progress locally, where we live and work, is essential to one day reaching a completely equitable world.
Understanding the root causes and its effects
I know what you’re thinking. Why is there such a thing as the digital gender gap?
Well, sadly this comes down to numerous hard-rooted societal norms. Women and girls often face greater barriers to accessing digital technologies, they see less representation of women in the technology sector and less girls are seeking further education in technology subjects.
Women and girls are put off pursuing a career or education in tech because, even in 2023, certain industries such as tech are perceived by most as a man’s job – or ‘too intelligent’ for girls to study. The fact that education is increasingly moving online quicker than we can upskill, creates multiple short-term and long-term issues.
If women and girls weren’t feeling discouraged enough, as of 2022, the technology industry’s gender pay gap has an average of 16%, which is 5% higher than the national average.
The digital gender gap isn’t just having personal effects on a girl’s life and future, its generating major economic growth limitations too. If women are unable to progress in their careers, they are also unable to contribute as much as possible to the economy. The global economy has the potential to increase by billions if additional women were able to be online in the next three years.
As the world became more secluded, the digital gender gap became even more apparent, especially during Covid-19 and it’s much closer to home than we realise. 34% of the Northern Power Women community surveyed, said they had experienced tech issues or struggled to adapt to the online world during the lockdown and in the more online world that we live in today.
So, what can we do?
Step one: provide access. Women having access to the online world and more advanced technological skills will provide them with resources, information, and platforms to raise their profile and level of political engagement. This can only mean good things for gender equality in this space.
Improved digital skills and literacy isn’t just great for the economy, it keeps us safer. Women’s safety is negatively impacted by poor digital skills. We’re not fully equipped to deal with online harassment when we lack understanding and awareness about the digital world. According to UNICEF, Women and girls are more susceptible to online dangers than men and boys, and images of child sexual abuse depict 90% of girls.
It’s encouraging to see how organisations, right in the heart of the Northern Power Women community are making changes. Yzen Ai (shortlisted for the 2023 Northern Power Women Inclusive Innovation Award) are educating and empowering hundreds of women into in-demand digital, tech and creative roles. They have achieved this by using AI to reskill women and differently abled people from diverse backgrounds, of varying socio-economic participation, digital literacy and self-efficacy levels, to overcome multiple access and inclusion barriers to learning and employment.
Closing the digital gender gap requires a multi-faceted approach that starts with early-year education and involves getting more women into technology. In lower-income countries, solutions also involve more affordable internet.
Organisations need to take careful consideration when it comes to hiring their staff to ensure it is promoting gender equality and continue to have an active focus on the retention of female workers in tech. Changes in the offline world also need to be made as there are adverse social norms that prohibit the development of gender equality in tech.
A more equitable and inclusive future can be reached, but only if everyone makes a conscious effort to combat technological gender inequity.
A version of this article first appeared on We Are Power, read the original here
CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE BYLINES NETWORK CROWDFUNDER!