The digital skills gap is an ongoing crisis exasperated by continued, rapid technology innovations that are impacting businesses of all sizes, across industries. Companies today are experiencing change on a colossal scale. For some, it is the result of digital transformation as they respond and try to differentiate themselves from disruptive competitors that want a share of their business. Without enough qualified technical personnel to understand, handle and implement new technologies, businesses are struggling to stay competitive and are falling behind the curb. No industry is immune from the digital skills deficiency.
The answer to the crisis seems simple: Get more people involved in technology. But a lack of a push for diversity within technology means that the skills gap continues to widen. Currently, only 24 percent of the U.S. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce is female, according to the Office of the Chief Economist. If this number rose, naturally, the skills gap would narrow. Put simply, closing the diversity gap can help to close the skills gap. Women are an untapped resource of tech talent.
Although more organizations, government bodies and schools are beginning to understand this issue, further action is needed to ensure that the skills gap is closed quickly. Here’s how businesses can play their part.
Invest in STEM Training.
Could you upskill or reskill the women in your workforce to perform STEM roles? What training do they need to do those roles? Would they be interested in taking on a different role to the one that they have, and do you allow for this type of career mobility?
Once you’ve established the answers to these questions, the next step is to find a learning partner that can deliver this training. Our always-on working lifestyle means that classroom sessions and days away from the office aren’t favorable when it comes to ongoing training. Instead, training should be delivered online, preferably in bite-size chunks and accessible on the learner’s own terms.
Continuous learning is a critical part of self-development. Every company should be investing in STEM training throughout the work life cycle and enabling better career mobility for all regardless of their gender, job title or location.
Not only do organizations need to create opportunities for their employees to advance their STEM careers, but executives also also need to become role models regarding gender parity and equal opportunity. As the saying goes, “If I can’t see it, I can’t be it.” We need to show more examples of women in technology to demonstrate the attraction of the career to women. Women who are in senior positions, in particular, should advocate for diverse recruitment and gender equality within their corporate environment.
Cultural change tends to start from the top down. Organizations need to change their attitudes to rally behind female talent. Only then will change truly occur.
Addressing the Pay Gap.
Moreover, recent findings from HIRED found that in the tech industry, 63 percent of the time, men are offered higher salaries than women for the same role at the same company. This statistic highlights the grave inequality currently present in the technology sector. The findings can be off-putting to women, who may feel that opportunities in tech are biased and, therefore, shun the idea of a career in STEM.
This gender pay gap needs to be addressed, and it may require legal action. Iceland, for instance, passed a law requiring employers to prove that they are paying their employees equally. These types of laws force businesses to deal with the consequences of unequal pay, but, rather than wait for pay equality to become law, businesses can take an approach of transparency to hiring and pay. This culture will make women feel more welcome and valued.
Ultimately, businesses need to expand their talent pools if they are to close the digital skills gap. Rather than turning to outsourcing or looking for talent in the same shallow pool, businesses should look to use the biggest untapped resource that they have: their female employees.