The increasing adoption of digital technologies and the growth of digital economy have created new opportunities for women to participate in the workforce, start businesses, be entrepreneurial and empower and look after themselves. The surge in digital transformation has a high potential to contribute towards sustainable development goals (SDGs) of companies. However, to ensure a sustainable future, it is important to enable a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion)-driven culture shift and ingrain it in workplace ethos.
What Does It Mean To Be Truly Inclusive?
To be truly inclusive means consciously creating a culture and environment that values diversity and ensures that everyone feels respected, heard, and included. This involves going beyond surface-level visible diversity, such as race, gender, and recognising and embracing diverse backgrounds and perspectives. This leads to several benefits for the economy and society.
A genuinely inclusive world is sustainable in several ways:
- Economic sustainability: Inclusive workplaces foster creativity, innovation, and productivity by leveraging the unique skills and experiences of diverse employees. This can lead to increased profitability, growth, and long-term sustainability of businesses.
- Social sustainability: An inclusive world promotes equality, social cohesion, and harmony, reducing the potential for conflicts and increasing the well-being of all individuals and communities.
- Environmental sustainability: Inclusive practices also promote environmental sustainability by promoting the use of sustainable resources and reducing waste and pollution.
- Global sustainability: A truly inclusive world promotes global cooperation and partnerships that are essential to address global challenges such as climate change, poverty, and inequality.
Despite the benefits of diversity and inclusion, there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
For example, in the United States, women hold only 25 percent of computing-related occupations. The gap is even wider in leadership positions, with women holding only 15 percent of executive roles and just 11 eprcent of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies.
Similarly, in the tech startup universe, women founders receive only a small fraction of venture capital funding compared to their male counterparts. The gap is not just limited to the US as it is indeed a global issue. In most developing countries, the percentage of women in tech and leadership positions is even lower.
Role Of Digital Inclusion
To accelerate and support the digital inclusion of women entrepreneurs and empower them to be successful in both digital business and the digital economy, we need a comprehensive global strategy that would touch upon every aspect of their growth and development. For example, providing education and training programmes like online courses, boot camps, and other mentorship programmes can greatly benefit women entrepreneurs.
Moreover, access to capital and technology are essential for women entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. Initiatives such as dedicated venture capital funds for women-led businesses and partnerships with financial institutions to offer low-cost loans and other financial products, discounted or free technology solutions such as computers, software, and high-speed Internet access, etc. can help eliminate minor roadblocks and accelerate their growth.
In addition, networking and mentorship opportunities can provide for building relationships with other entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. Facilitating both online and offline networking and mentorship opportunities can help women entrepreneurs build a supportive community of peers and mentors who can offer advice, guidance, and support. Lastly, advocacy and policies like tax incentives for companies that invest in women-led businesses and promoting gender diversity in leadership positions can help support women entrepreneurs’ digital inclusion and growth.
Women Taking The Wheel
Digital technologies can potentially transform women’s lives across the globe by expanding their opportunities, giving them a voice, and increasing their access to resources and services.
According to a study by Accenture, digital technologies could add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025, with $6 trillion coming from improved productivity due to increased female participation in the workforce.
Digital technologies have made it easier for women to find jobs and work from home, which can be particularly beneficial for women in developing countries who may have limited access to transportation or face cultural barriers to working outside the home.
Another report by Dell says that women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a faster rate than men, and they are quicker in adopting tech. Digital technologies can help women entrepreneurs connect with customers, manage their finances, and market their products and services.
Technological advancements can also help women access healthcare services in remote or underserved areas. For example, telemedicine platforms can connect women with doctors and specialists in real-time, reducing the need for travel and improving access to care.
Furthermore, social media and digital channels have given women a platform to share their stories, raise awareness of issues affecting them, and advocate for change. For example, the #MeToo movement went viral on social media, leading to a global conversation about sexual harassment and assault.
Overall, the data suggests that digital technologies have the potential to empower women in numerous ways, from improving their economic opportunities to expanding access to education, healthcare, and political participation.
However, it is crucial to ensure that these technologies are accessible to all women, regardless of their socio-economic status or location, and aid in promoting gender equality and women empowerment.
(The author is the co-founder of KarmaV, an AI-driven platform that looks to improve workforce diversity and ethical hiring)
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