Technology is Still a Boy Game: Italy is 25th out of 28 for Digital Gender EqualityA STUDY BY BOCCONI AND PLAN INTERNATIONAL ITALIA WITH THE SUPPORT OF UNICREDIT FOUNDATION PHOTOGRAPHS THE DIGITAL GENDER DIVIDE IN ITALY
We are still far from digital gender equality. According to the Women in Digital score, Italy is 25th among 28 European countries for digital gender equality, 12 positions below the European average and ahead of only Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. This is a result of The Digital Gender Gap, a study which has photographed and analyzed the situation in Italy, noting the obstacles to the promotion of female access to technology and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines. The report, which also analyzed common perceptions and prejudices related to women and technology, was carried out by Bocconi University and Plan International with the support of UniCredit Foundation, the Group's foundation, committed to promoting studies and research in economics and finance.
Despite technologies being one of the strongest drivers of our society, women continue to have limited access to the digital sector in terms of education, career and opportunities, with consequences not only in terms of gender equality but also in terms of productivity and financial loss, the study notes. And since it is estimated that more than 60% of the professions of the future do not yet exist and will be strongly linked to technology, the report raises an alarm on the Italian employment situation related to STEM subjects. In professions related to cloud computing, 83% of workers are men, in engineering 81% and in data engineering 69%. This is although both men and, especially, women perceive technology as an opportunity, the study finds.
“The digital gender gap is not only a violation of girls' and women's right to information, participation and economic empowerment through technology, but also a missed opportunity to develop the potential of women and girls in the digital world. Change can only be promoted by tackling the root causes: breaking down gender barriers and stereotypes in family, school and labor market,” Says Concha López, CEO of NGO Plan International Italia, an organization that promotes children's rights and gender equality.
The study reveals that 93% of participants taught themselves how to use technologies. This point is important because it shows that women participants have the skills to learn but encounter social barriers to using technologies.
“The disconnect between a positive perception towards technology and the trend that leads girls to be five times less likely than boys to pursue a career in technology starts in the family, whose culture underestimates the ability of girls in science, and continues at school, which does not take adequate action to promote scientific culture among women. Our analysis shows that it is precisely girls who most frequently associate the emotion of fear with the study of mathematics,” explains Paola Profeta, Director of the AXA Research Lab on Gender Equality at Bocconi, one of the authors of the study.
And even when women pursue careers in STEM subjects, the gender disparity tends not to decrease. On the contrary, according to Almalaurea data, five years after graduation only 45% of women have a stable profession, compared to 62% of men.
However, going back to the use of technology and looking at basic digital skills, an interesting fact emerges that goes against the grain: considering Generation Z, in the 16-24 age group, girls' skills are higher than boys'. Even if, in Italian collective imagination, technology is still “something for boys”, the reality is different for the new generations. So how did we arrive at the technological gender gap that we see in the following age groups?
The difference is given by the fact that technology is learned by doing, as well as by studying, the research underlines. This means that as women grow older and start a family, they have less time than men to develop their technological knowledge. In fact, 74% of Italian women say they don't share household chores with their partners.
On this front, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world how much access to technology and digital skills matter. But, at the same time, it has shown that remote work can be a powerful means of female empowerment. In fact, data shows that more flexible ways of working allow for a better distribution of family workload between men and women.
The study concludes that in order to eliminate this type of gender gap, it is necessary to work on several fronts, starting with family and school and arriving at a serious policy to promote women's digital empowerment in companies and society as a whole.
"We are pleased to have supported this research carried out by Plan International Italia and Bocconi University because we share its objectives,” says Roberta Marracino, Head of ESG Strategy & Impact Banking UniCredit. “UniCredit is constantly committed to promoting and enhancing female talent, as well as a broader culture of inclusion, not only towards its own people through global growth programs, but also by supporting women's businesses and all activities that offer services to families. A more equitable and inclusive society that values women's skills and professionalism can generate greater growth and well-being for all.”
Click here to download the study.
by Andrea Celauro