Women and Technology
How can women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds use technology to fully participate and prosper in the economy?
Today, limited access to finance, low connectivity, and cultural limitations are some of the enduring barriers that prevent women and girls around the world from taking their rightful place in the economy. The global average of a woman’s annual earnings today stands at 11,000 USD versus 20,000 USD for a man. The gender pay gap is particularly pronounced for women of color, women of lower economic status, and women in non-OECD countries.
Restricted access to resources, information and opportunities not only limits a woman’s chances for economic equality, but also deprives the marketplace of much-needed talent, pathways for innovation, and financial returns. Closing the gender gap in economic participation would add an estimated 10 to 17 trillion USD to the global economy. Fortune 500 companies with more women among their boards of directors significantly outperform those without women on return on equity, on sales, and on invested capital. As for women-led startups, they yield a 35 percent higher return than those led by men—despite receiving only 10 percent of global investor money.
As our global economy continues to digitize and transform, these inequalities persist and even threaten to deepen. Women disproportionately hold jobs susceptible to automation, whereas fields with employment growth are characterized by low female representation. For example, while STEM-related industries will add in the coming years over 1.7 million jobs in the US alone, less than 12 percent of the country’s engineering students are women. Women also face greater challenges in being connected and getting online. In South Asia, women are 38 percent less likely than men to own a phone. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women are 45 percent less likely to have access to the internet than men. And in Norway, young women are met with two times more frequent cyberbullying than men, deterring many from fully engaging online.
At the same time, technology holds the potential to increase girls’ and women’s opportunities in momentous ways. With the right tools, the internet can provide women with new and innovative pathways to connect and to meaningfully participate in the economy. Mobile phones and networks can improve a woman’s safety and her access to financial services. Beyond access, designing products with gender differences in mind carries real impact, whether in the fintech industry by offering adapted financial products, or in human resources departments by de-biasing hiring, retention, and promotion. Rightly leveraged, technology can play a role in setting girls up for success—whether by taking up studies in a STEM field or aspiring for leadership positions. For women and girls to fully reap the benefits of the ‘digital dividend,’ we need to find ways to weaken and break down the barriers that hold them back, and we need to find ways to amplify what works.
The Solve community aims to unearth and support innovative solutions to ensure women and girls can fully participate and prosper in the workforce and the economy. To do so, the Solve community can:
- Improve connectivity and technology access for women, particularly in underserved areas
- Increase women’s financial inclusion through access to digital payments, savings, investment, and insurance
- Increase opportunities for dignified income generation in nontraditional sectors and through access to new supply chains and new markets
- Correct for bias and heuristics, whether in the workplace or within communities