Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 12 student.
As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, digital transformation has accelerated, posing new challenges for achieving gender equality in the workplace.
Digitalization has been accelerated in most countries during the COVID-19 crisis, although at varying speeds, mainly as a result of social distancing regulations and other COVID-19-related regulations passed by governments all over the world, as well as changing consumer demand.
In addition to the burden of household and caregiving responsibilities during the lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected women by exposing them to higher health risks and the risk of becoming unemployed.
Throughout the world, the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated digital transformation trends, as seen by the expansion and development of digital infrastructure; the shift to digital delivery of services by organizations and firms, for example in education, healthcare, and retail; and the increased use of digital technologies in manufacturing.
Despite the pandemic’s negative impact on many businesses, it has also uncovered new opportunities for entrepreneurs. During and after the pandemic, it has boosted digital entrepreneurship, reflecting changing consumer behavior.
Globally, the pandemic has affected women differently, exposing previously overlooked gender biases such as racial inequalities.
In terms of health risk, we find that black women in the United States are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than black men or white women. The working hours and incomes of self-employed women decreased more than those of self-employed men. Thus, self-employed women lost working hours and income at a higher rate, in addition to fulfilling family obligations, such as homeschooling children, facing workplace discrimination, and working part-time.
In developing countries, large digital gender divides pose obstacles to the digital transformation of manufacturing. As a result of the pandemic, many educational and work-related activities were only possible via remote access, highlighting the importance of digital inclusion during crises.
The lack of access to digital devices in less developed countries is often caused by high acquisition costs and poor infrastructure. In the IT industry as a whole, women are more likely to work in the internet and telecommunications subsector, compared with computers and networking. Particularly in developing countries, the digital gender divide could be a critical bottleneck to achieving greater gender equality in manufacturing.
COVID-19 crisis and accelerated digital transformation: Implications for women’s empowerment
Gender biases within certain populations should be more closely examined
Women have clearly been hit harder than men as a result of COVID-19 and the resulting recession is referred to as a “Shecession” because it has indisputably affected them more than men.
It has also been revealed that some groups of women are more vulnerable than others due to the pandemic. It is therefore imperative to eliminate gender-racial gaps, gender biases within minority groups, and gender biases in families with children.
Recognizing the potential for women to work remotely
As a result of the lockdown, many women and men were able to continue working through teleworking. Women can work remotely with the help of existing technologies, but teleworking opportunities are relatively limited in manufacturing. Furthermore, firms’ organizational cultures, as well as workers’ low digital capabilities, continue to pose obstacles to teleworking’s full realization.
Taking gender gaps into account in the gig economy
Project-by-project recruitment of gig workers could become a new trend for manufacturing. As in the offline economy, gender inequality persists in the gig economy, too, where certain gender gaps, like wage gaps, may widen. Some of these gaps can be explained by women’s preferences or choices, while others are clearly driven by a lack of experience with digital platforms and can be addressed through appropriate training.
Women’s burden is often increased by digital work, despite its flexibility
The inclusion of women in the labor market depends on flexible work arrangements. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the burden on female teleworkers increased because household chores and childcare duties were not equally distributed within families. Thus, while encouraging flexible work schedules like teleworking is necessary, it is in no way sufficient to truly empower women.
Addressing the digital gender divide
Even in the most developed nations, there is still a long way to go until the entire population is digitally included, but the gender discrepancies in less developed countries are particularly wide. These nations must ensure that women have equal access to the internet, digital technologies are more accessible, and gender equality is attained in at least the most fundamental digital skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated to us that promoting greater gender equality benefits the economy and society at large. To reap economic and social benefits and increase the participation of women in the labour force and society, we must take action right away.
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