The latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report has found that it will take an unacceptable 217 years to achieve economic parity between women and men. This should serve as a wake-up call for leaders in business and government that we need to step up our efforts to combat gender inequality in all its forms, and across every industry – none more so than in the industries that are heavily reliant on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent. And at the current pace of digital disruption and transformation, that will soon be every industry.
Rather that democratize our global economy as hoped, it’s possible that the ever more rapid proliferation of digital platforms and the digitization of economies could actually exacerbate gender disparity in the workplace. Right now, there just aren’t enough women working in the STEM disciplines. Of those women that do work in STEM, relatively few are in leadership positions, and on average they earn less than their male counterparts. Consider these concerning stats:
- Globally women accounted for less than a third (28.8%) of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the world in 2014
- Globally, women made up just 12.2% of boards in the information technology industry in 2015.
- In the United States, women in computer, engineering, and science occupations were paid an estimated 79.2% of men’s annual median earnings in 2016
Without a significant voice in STEM, women could be excluded from the opportunity to shape our working world for the better. And that’s not just a problem for women; it’s long been established that companies and countries alike are more prosperous when women are included and empowered to succeed. Closing the gender gap is not just a moral imperative – it’s also an economic one.
To that end, here’s what business and governments should do right now to encourage more women to become architects of an inclusive digital future.
1. Create public-private partnerships to support the talent pipeline
We should work to create innovative public-private partnerships that empower women to participate and thrive in the global economy.
The good news is that business and government have demonstrated that we can partner together to fight the biases that hold back millions of women and girls from an early age. At EY, for instance, we are proud to support EQUALS: The Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age, an international effort led by the International Telecommunication Union, UN Women, and the GSM Association.
Since it was launched in September 2016, EQUALS has worked to bridge the gender digital divide by focusing on three main areas. First, they ensure that women and girls have access to digital technologies. Next, they empower those women with the digital and STEM skills they need to use those tools and succeed in today’s economy. Third, and crucially, they work to promote women as leaders and decision makers in the technology sector. By bringing together private enterprises, governments, and NGOs from around the world, EQUALS proves that cross-sector collaboration can help close the gender gap – and we should all look for more opportunities like it to get involved.
In addition to EQUALS, our people at EY are constantly seeking out ways to boost digital inclusion and bring a greater diversity of talent into the STEM industry. One such initiative is STEM Advantage, a collaboration with California State University. STEM Advantage is a not-for-profit program that prepares and inspires young women and underserved minorities of all genders to pursue STEM careers through paid internships, mentorships and scholarships. Watch the video below to discover more about the STEM Advantage program and what inspired EY’s Lee Ann Kline to found it.