This week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day with the central theme being #PressForProgress. The initiative comes in response to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings, stating we are 217 years away from gender parity. The report studied 144 countries progress on gender parity, focusing on 4 main themes:
- Economic Participation and opportunity
- Educational Attainment
- Health & Survival
- Political Empowerment
The gender gap in the above-mentioned themes is widening as we keeping moving forward. Not exactly the progress that was pictured, and definitely not a sustainable model for economies worldwide. Rainer Strack, a human resources expert, points out in his TED talk that “we are running into a global workforce crisis come 2030 with an overall labour shortage and a huge skill mismatch and big cultural challenge”.
Source: IMF – Girl Power, Finance & Development, March 2017, Vol.54, No.1
Women are underrepresented in almost every industry sector. On an average, they make up 33% of junior level staff, 24% of mid-level staff, 15% of senior-level staff and only 9% of CEOs (World Economic Forum Report). A global workforce change needs to be incorporated in order to bridge labour shortage as well as skill gap that prevails.
In a recent research paper, published by Rana et al, it was identified that India’s informal or unorganized sector accounts for 93% of the workforce. Out of which women contribute only 24%. If women from the informal work sectors are properly trained, India would see an increase of 4.2% in its GDP.
Offsetting ageing population
As we spearhead our way through technology and innovation, we sometimes tend to forget that the world is ageing. According to a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, 8.5% of people worldwide are aged 65 and over, a number to jump to nearly 17% by 2050. An ageing population will bring with it a working-age population shrink, with a profound implication on economic growth. Women can offset this population shrink by filling the gaps at every level of the industry.
Unique Problem Solving
It is well known that women and men approach problem-solving from different perspectives. Neither of the genders is right or wrong; it’s just a different opinion that could lead to thinking out of the box and arriving at innovative solutions.
A plethora of research articles have stated: “women are better at soft skills than men”. Another pile of research points towards the inadequate soft skills being the major proponent of the skill gap. Unfortunately, having good soft skills is a double-edged sword for women. While women are employable due to their soft skills, they are generally pushed towards administrative tasks and not involved in core technical jobs. A higher representation of women in STEM-based jobs would significantly help in arriving at a balance of skilled workers with necessary soft skills.
As the world scuttles around to find solutions to bridge skill gaps, the answer seems simple – ensure gender parity at the workplace for economic growth. By creating a right work environment, de-gendering skill sets and providing equal opportunities, more women can join the workforce and eventually bridge the skill gap.