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Women at work: The silent revolution at India’s workplaces

Our Bureau | Updated on January 20, 2018

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Digital literacy is transforming gender equations



While India Inc is looking at affirmative action and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and the government mulls imposing quotas to address the issue of gender imbalance in the workplace, Indian women have quietly been arming themselves with the skills and knowledge needed to get ahead in what still remains largely a man’s world.

In fact, the Centre’s Digital India initiative may play a bigger role in women empowerment in the workplace than any women-specific initiatives, a new survey by global consultancy Accenture suggests. The key to this transformation lies in digital fluency — the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective, says the research report, ‘Getting to Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work’.

The hidden dividend of Digital India is underscored by the survey’s finding that while women continue to trail men in digital fluency in most countries, improving their digital skills can change the picture.

If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace.

In a statement released with the survey findings, Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stressed, “There is a clear opportunity for governments and businesses to collaborate on efforts that will empower more women with digital skills and accelerate gender equality in the workforce.”

The online survey, conducted between December 2015 and January 2016, covered more than 4,900 working women and men in 31 countries. The sample had equal representation of men and women, representing three generations (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) across all workforce levels at companies of varying size.

In India, men use digital to prepare for and find work more frequently than women (81 per cent and 74 per cent). Yet, when women and men have the same level of digital proficiency, women are better at leveraging it to find work, the survey found. Nearly 60 per cent of all survey respondents in India — men and women combined — agreed that digital enables them to work from home; half of all respondents said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives; and more than half said digital access and skills increased access to job opportunities.

Though women have been leveraging digital skills to advance their careers, their ability to do so is severely limited by systemic roadblocks. India scored nearly last in Accenture’s ‘digital fluency’ model, which weights digital fluency, education, employment and career advancement to arrive at how digital skills and access impact gender equality in the workplace. The model measured how digitally fluent women are, compared to men, as well as how much that fluency is helping to drive positive changes in their education, employment and advancement at work.

On a scale of 80, India scored just 12 — the second lowest amongst the 33 developed and developing countries surveyed.

In fact, another project championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also have payouts for gender equality — Startup India. The survey found that nearly 61 per cent of women respondents in emerging markets like India said they aspired to be entrepreneurs rather than mere participants in the workplace, more than twice the 29 per cent of their developed economy counterparts.

Published on March 07, 2016

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