Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

International Women’s Day: 2 experts say flexibility for everyone would make workplaces more equal

Women at work

Women at work: Flexibility is a gamechanger - but only if it's for everyone Image: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Gayle Markovitz
Acting Head, Written and Audio Content, World Economic Forum
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education, Gender and Work is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education, Gender and Work

  • As the world marks International Women’s Day, we asked two of the authors of the upcoming Global Gender Gap Report what they expect for gender equality in the workplace in 2022.
  • LinkedIn’s Sue Duke calls to remove bias and stigma around flexibility to make workplaces more equal.
  • Coursera’s Betty Vandenbosch suggests training and flexible online opportunities offered gains during the pandemic that can be used to make further progress.

Developing and deploying one-half of the world’s available talent has a huge bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report offers a means to benchmark progress, with rankings that are designed to create global awareness of the challenges that gender gaps pose, as well as the opportunities that emerge when action is taken to reduce them.

Have you read?
  • Global Gender Gap Report 2021

Last year’s report sounded a warning that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the global gender gap by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

Despite progress in education and health, it showed that women face economic hurdles, declining political participation and workplace challenges, and called for strategies and policies that emphasize investment in the care sector, equal hiring practices and skills development.

Without a proactive approach to embedding equity, there is a risk of further polarization by race, gender, economic status or other forms of difference. Policy-makers must embed equity into economic reform.

World Economic Forum, Managing Director, Saadia Zahidi

The World Economic Forum’s Managing Director, Saadia Zahidi, called for “equity, diversity and inclusion” to be “hardwired into how new markets are built, how reskilling and upskilling is done, how education systems are reformed and how the care economy is built.”

Discover

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

One year on, as the world marks International Women’s Day, we asked two of the authors of this year's edition (due June 2022), what they expect for gender equality in the workplace in 2022 and how to address inequity in the context of digitalization, automation and hybrid working.

The theme that emerges is a trend towards flexibility and 'care-conducive work policies'. But these need to be balanced with equal incentives for all people to take flexible options to avoid a two-track path, where flexibility becomes a barrier rather than an enabler of career progression.

'We have to remove bias and stigma around flexibility'

Sue Duke, Vice President, Head of Global Public Policy & Economic Graph, LinkedIn

The COVID-19 crisis hit women’s participation in the workforce much harder, with many women being forced to take a step back from work as they had to step up at home. LinkedIn’s Economic Graph data shows that especially in the beginning of the crisis, hiring rates for women plummeted compared to men and critical ground was lost in terms of getting more women into leadership roles.

Female representation in leadership is critical not only because of the impact these jobs have but also because leaders often serve as role models to others. Today there is no country and no industry in the world achieving gender parity in leadership roles.

World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021
'Women are not fairly represented in the jobs of tomorrow' Image: World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2021

Our data also shows worrying signs that women are not fairly represented in the jobs of tomorrow. These are the jobs that are shaping the future of our economy and are likely to provide a large volume of employment opportunities. They include areas that are critical for our societies, such as the technology sector and the green economy. These jobs are often well-paid and our data shows that they are more resilient in times of crises than other jobs. Getting more women into the jobs of the future is critical and we cannot lose more time. We need to act now.

And while this makes for very sobering reading, at the same time, the pandemic has shown that change is possible. Almost overnight we saw that remote work became the norm for many. And two years into the pandemic, remote jobs account for nearly 15% of all jobs on LinkedIn.

On LinkedIn, we also see that women are more likely to apply to remote jobs than men. Flexibility can be a game-changer and a key driver for equality in workplaces as it can allow both women and men to combine work and other duties. Simple measures such as working remotely or flexible working times can make a large difference. But we have to remove bias and stigma around flexibility if we’re to realize its true potential and make workplaces more equal.

Flexibility can be a game-changer and a key driver for equality in workplaces as it can allow both women and men to combine work and other duties.

Sue Duke, Vice President, Head of Global Public Policy & Economic Graph, LinkedIn

Achieving gender equality is a complex undertaking and requires coordinated action from all. But we’ve shown over the last two years that we can make huge change at scale when we need to. And this is one area where we really need change.

'Online learning and digital jobs offer more equal access for women'

Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer, Coursera

The new digital economy, accelerated by automation and the pandemic, requires new skills.

By 2025, 149 million new digital jobs will be created – many of which can be done remotely. The flexibility of online learning and remote work will open up employment opportunities for women on a global scale, as many look to fit work and learning into their lives, instead of the other way around.

Our research suggests gender gaps in online learning narrowed during the pandemic globally, even as the gender employment gap widened. 50% of new registered learners on Coursera in 2021 were women, up from 45% pre-pandemic. Many countries, particularly emerging economies, saw a dramatic increase in online education participation among women year-over-year.

Many countries, particularly emerging economies, saw a dramatic increase in online education participation among women year-over-year.

Betty Vandenbosch, Chief Content Officer, Coursera

We saw the share of enrollments from women in online STEM courses – which account for many high-demand digital skills – grow from 31% pre-pandemic to 37% in 2021. Stackable, short-form, and mobile learning options are crucial to make learning possible and help women move into STEM careers.

Well-paying jobs that do not require a college degree or prior industry experience are emerging in high-growth fields, including entry-level roles in sectors, such as IT, sales, project management, and data analytics – ideal for those looking to switch careers.

Compared to pre-pandemic, there were higher participation rates from women in affordable certificate programmes that prepare learners for entry-level digital careers in under a year. Enrollments from women in these programmes increased from 25% in 2019 to 37% in 2021 in a growing number of certificates from industry leaders, including Google, Meta, Salesforce, and Intuit.

gender gaps in online learning narrowed during the pandemic globally, even as the gender employment gap widened
Gender gaps in online learning narrowed during the pandemic globally, even as the gender employment gap widened. Image: Coursera

Data also shows that women enroll more than men in courses taught by women instructors. Higher education institutions and industry educators can diversify their instructors, particularly in STEM fields, to help increase participation from women learners and other underrepresented groups.

Institutional collaboration will be critical to addressing the scale of the skills crisis and gender workplace gap amid rapid transformation. Governments, businesses, and higher education institutions must unite efforts to create flexible and affordable pathways for women to develop critical skills and unlock their full economic potential in the modern workforce.

For example, governments and higher ed institutions can offer free access to broadband connectivity, skills training initiatives, and career coaching for women learners. They can also partner with local nonprofits to recruit women learners from communities most in need, and provide other support services such as cohort learning, mentors, and alumni networks.

Businesses should modernize workplace practices: remove unnecessary degree requirements, normalize resumé gaps for parents and caretakers, and embrace flexible and remote working policies.

Together, online learning and digital jobs offer a foundation for more equal access to opportunity for women around the world. Hopeful trends are emerging, but we still have important work to do to ensure gender equality in the new digital economy.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Equity, Diversity and InclusionJobs and the Future of Work
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

It’s financial literacy month: From schools to the workplace, let's take action

Annamaria Lusardi and Andrea Sticha

April 24, 2024

4:31

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum