[Press Release] South Africa needs to fast track digital fluency in women

Key contributing factors to South Africa’s struggle to grow its economy are the ever-increasing talent, skills and equal pay gaps in the workplace. This is according to the latest study released this week by Accenture. Titled Getting to Equal 2017, the research reveals that digitally fluent women can close these gaps.

The study focuses on the country’s status and attitudes of working men and women, non-working women and undergraduates on the use and acquisition of digital and technology skills, and their perception of gender equality – including pay gap. It also explores the actions businesses, government, academia and women themselves need to take to help women and contribute towards the economic growth.

Gale Shabangu, Inclusion and Diversity lead at Accenture, says that actively growing digital fluency can deliver enormous social and economic benefits for South Africa. “In addition, our research identifies two other gender pay equalisers – improving career strategies and greater immersion in technology – that also play a significant role in closing the gender gap.”

“The report shows that the choices young women undergraduates are making now are setting them up to enter the workforce with fewer digital skills, less mentoring advice and lower interest in pursuing high-paying jobs compared with their male counterparts.” The report shows two powerful equalisers – in addition to digital fluency – that can help close the pay
gap between women and men:

• Career Strategy: The need for women to aim high, make informed choices and manage their
careers proactively.
• Tech Immersion: The opportunity for women to acquire greater technology and stronger digital skills to advance as quickly as men.

The potential impact is profound. Combining these equalisers could add nearly 100 million women to the global workforce, reduce the pay gap by 35 percent worldwide and add $3.9 trillion to women’s income by 2030. Working towards a more even distribution of woman across the industries in similar proportion as men would also significantly increase economic output and further boost GDP.

Shabangu says that in South Africa, digital fluency and gender equality ranking is currently low. “We ranked 21 out of 26 countries. The question is: ‘what actions can we take to turn this around?’ As the Fourth Industrial Revolution ushers in cyber-physical systems, robots, smart connected devices, machine intelligence, analytics, and mobile, social and cloud technologies, digital skills will be a vital to current and future workforces. The challenge is finding the talent pool. Women are a key part of the solution.”

The problem is, women only make up 45.2 percent of the local workforce. “Tapping into South Africa’s pool of women would help address the country’s shrinking labour force as well as its employment challenges, increase its growth potential in the medium term, and raise living standards for all,” says Shabangu.

But women need to become more digitally fluent. “A digital workforce is a more ‘adaptive’ workforce – an agile, continuously learning, distributed workforce comprising skills from internal and external talent pools that are often brought together on-demand to address micro tasks or projects using new workforce platforms and online management solutions,” says Shabangu.

To identify and better understand the role of digital fluency in workforce gender equality, Accenture developed the Accenture Digital Fluency Model, enabling it to measure the extent to which women and men are leveraging digital to advance throughout their career lifecycle, providing insight into how digitally fluent women are compared to men, as well as how much that fluency is helping to drive positive change in their education, employment experience and advancement at work.

To create the model, Accenture conducted a survey of nearly 5,000 men and women in 31 countries – including South Africa – to gauge their use of digital technologies and get insight into the specifics of their education and career.

The model also reveals a key insight: If governments and businesses double the pace at which
women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed countries, and by 2060 in developing countries.

Shabangu says the three accelerators – digital fluency, career strategy and tech immersion – could boost women’s income by 2030 by $3.9 trillion globally, and by $47.2 billion in South Africa, enabling the country to reach parity in 2041, 52 years earlier than anticipated. “The gender skills and pay gaps have remained a global challenge for far too long. These gaps are
not only hindering women, but business and economic growth in general.

“Academia, government and business all have an important role to play in closing these gaps by
actively supporting the application of the three equalisers, namely digital fluency, career strategy and tech immersion. By doing so, they can provide the environment, opportunities and role models to lead change.”

The Accenture’s global Getting to Equal – Closing the Gender Pay Gap (2017) research surveyed
more than 28,000 women and men, including undergraduates, in 29 countries to identify drivers of pay equality and career advancement. Combining this data with published data on education,
employment and leadership, Accenture then explored the potential impact of specific measures to improve equality.



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