Digital fluency and the gender gap
By Lum Ka Kay April 4, 2016
- 31 countries surveyed, Asean countries seriously lagging: Accenture
- Gender gap in Malaysia has actually widened since 2006
IF women become fluent users of technology, Malaysia could achieve gender equality in the workplace by as early as 2060, according to consulting firm Accenture.
In conjunction with International Women’s Day last month, Accenture released a new research report on Getting to Equal: How Digital is Helping Close the Gender Gap at Work.
According to Accenture Malaysia inclusion and diversity lead Chan Chin Ching (pic above), countries should double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, to shorten the time needed to achieve workplace gender equality.
The research, which applied the Accenture Digital Fluency Model, was the first to actively study the way people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected, and effective, according to Accenture.
And no surprise, the results of the research shows that the higher the digital fluency, the higher the gender equality at the workplace.
Among the 31 countries surveyed, those in Asean (the Association of South-East Asian Nations) region had the lowest score on average.
“The research found that women’s employment opportunities increase as digital fluency increases,” said Chan, adding that almost half of the working women surveyed said they use digital technologies to work from home and to access job opportunities.
“Digital fluency is removing many of the barriers that non-working women said kept them from working,” she said.
“This is especially important for Malaysia where we have many educated women who embark on careers but drop out midstream for their family – digital fluency offers them new ways to work,” she told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Almost 60% of women who are not currently employed said that working from home or having more flexible hours would help them find work, according to the Accenture report.
“Educated women seemed to be able to leverage digital technology better, as the Internet is important to them and it gives them tremendous edge in their career lifecycle,” said Chan.
According to the Accenture report, digital fluency has also had a more positive impact on the education of women in developing countries than in developed ones: More than two-thirds (68%) of women in developing countries, versus less than half (44%) of women in developed countries, say that the Internet was important to their education.
“In short, women seem to be leveraging digital through their education to a greater effect than men,” said the report.
The report also shows that 61% of women in emerging markets are more than twice as likely as to those in developed markets (29%) to start a new business in the next five years.
Meanwhile, Chan said that 40.7% of Accenture Malaysia’s 601 female employees are executives.
Public relations firm Weber Shandwick’s Gender Forward Pioneer (GFP) Index found that only 10.9% of the senior executives of the world’s 500 largest companies are women; in Asia Pacific, it is a mere 4%.
Why things haven’t changed
According to the Gender Gap Report, which first started researching the issue in 2006, Malaysia ranked 68th globally in 2006 for Women’s Economic Participation and Opportunity. By 2015, Malaysia had slipped to 95th position, all in slightly less than a decade.
So why haven’t things changed much for Malaysia in the last decade?
Noting that that other countries in the report have progressed, Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin, managing director of Malaysian multimedia company Madcat World Sdn Bhd, said this was a serious issue that needed to be addressed at all levels.
“By remaining at status quo while huge advancements have taken place in other countries, specifically in political empowerment, this has propelled other countries forward and left Malaysia behind,” she said.
“We need to get more women in Parliament and ministerial positions – currently, we are ranked 135 out of 145 countries!
“I believe this is due to the fact that politics in Malaysia is still a male-dominated arena, where it is a ‘boys club’,” she told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Madcat World is one of the many MSC Malaysia-status companies that joined Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd’s Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) – an entrepreneurship and mentorship programme run by Proficeo Consultants.
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Malaysia has only had 11 female Cabinet ministers and 25 female deputy ministers since 1969; and the current Cabinet lineup only features three female ministers and six female deputy ministers.
Penang state executive councillor Chong Eng said the percentage of women in Parliament and state legislative assemblies are only about 10%, according to a Malaysiakini report (subscription required).
When asked why there were so few women in the tech and startup space, Nuraizah said there isn’t enough exposure of women in the industry, and there are still very few female role models.
Nuraizah (pic) is also the former president of the Association of Bumiputra Women Entrepreneurs Network of Malaysia (WENA), and her advice for women who want to join the startup and tech industry is to go ahead and do it.
“Learn the technology so that you know when someone is trying to pull a fast one [on you], and hire a team that can do the work,” she said.
“Malaysia is a great country to begin a startup – we have one the most supportive startup as well as funding communities in the world.
“The tech and startup industry welcomes women’s participation,” she added.
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