In job markets across the Asia Pacific region (APAC), most industries -- including large employers like manufacturing, transportation and healthcare -- are being transformed by digital technologies, making digital skills almost required for workers. Developing these skills may also create new opportunities for women in the region to advance in their careers and overcome longstanding inequities -- such as unequal pay and a lack of representation in leadership roles.
However, a recent study by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Gallup in nine countries across APAC suggests many women are less confident than men with their current level of digital skills and in their ability to acquire the skills they will need in the future. The findings are based on an opt-in, online survey of workers aged 18 and older in each country.
In four countries -- Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and New Zealand -- women who worked in jobs that involved handling information and using a computer were significantly less likely than men in such jobs to be “completely confident” or “very confident” that they have the level of digital skills needed to perform their job. In another four countries, women’s confidence trailed men’s directionally, though the difference did not exceed the survey’s margin of error.
In five of the nine APAC countries studied -- Singapore, New Zealand, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand -- women were also significantly less likely than men to be completely or very confident in their ability to keep pace with the digital skills they will need to work in their field. In just one country -- India, where most women and men were highly confident -- women were slightly more likely than men to feel confident.
In Several Countries, Women Less Likely Than Men to Receive Key Benefits From Digital Skills Training
Recognizing the importance of digital technology in their fields, the majority of both male and female workers across the nine countries studied said they were interested in getting training in at least one digital skill. However, when workers who had received digital skills training were asked about the benefits, men were often more likely than women to report positive outcomes, particularly in two key areas: promotions and pay raises.
In most countries, men were more likely than women to say the digital skills training they received resulted in increased opportunities for promotion. This was particularly evident in Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, and New Zealand, where the gap between men and women in terms of parlaying new digital skills into new work opportunities was more than 10 percentage points.
In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and New Zealand, men were significantly more likely than women to report salary increases as a result of their digital skills training. However, in India and Indonesia, women were directionally more likely than men to report such a pay raise, though the differences did not exceed the survey’s margin of error.
There were fewer significant gender gaps for other outcomes, except in certain countries. Women in Malaysia and South Korea were less likely than men to say they benefited across a range of categories, including increased efficiency and higher personal satisfaction. Conversely, women in Indonesia were more likely than their male counterparts to say digital training resulted in improved employability and higher job satisfaction, while in New Zealand, women were more likely to mention increased efficiency and higher job satisfaction.
Women’s Rewards for Digital Skills Training Often Less Common Than Expected Benefits
Respondents who expressed interest in learning a specific digital skill were asked to choose from a list of expected benefits. Comparing those results with responses about benefits obtained from those who had been through digital training suggests that in most countries, actual outcomes may not match women’s prior expectations.
Particularly with regard to increased salary and increased opportunities for promotion, the percentages of women in most countries who had anticipated each outcome were significantly higher than the percentages who said those outcomes actually occurred. There were a few exceptions to this trend, such as in Indonesia, where the percentage of female workers who saw increased opportunities for promotion exceeded the percentage who had expected this outcome.
Proficiency in digital skills -- particularly advanced skills -- is related to people’s ability to advance economically, and yet the digital skills gender divide still presents a formidable barrier to women’s economic mobility. The AWS-Gallup study indicates that even when women do take advantage of digital skills training, many face significant disparities when it comes to the rewards and opportunities they receive from such training.
Promoting digital skills training for women around the world will help ensure that women can benefit from the increase in global prosperity conferred by the digital economy. But if organizations want to promote equality, it is critical that they not only offer women training opportunities but also ensure that skills development is tied to career and economic opportunity. By doing so, they can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace that benefits everyone.
Read more stories about women around the world on our International Women's Day page.
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