The gender gap in a digital world
The House of Representatives voted in October 2021 to pass the Equality Act. The bill aims to create universal protection in federal law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. As the pandemic uncovered deep-rooted problems within gender equality, it is clear that we need to update the existing laws. The advocacy for gender equality advances, but the gender gap is still here.
The current world where women can start up their business, work online and take on senior roles is already an improvement from what it used to be, but there is still a long way to go.
The fast digital progress brings a lot of opportunities for women but equally creates a digital divide which we need to be closing now before it will happen to be a bigger issue. Eventually, a digital divide could be one of the key contributors to the continuously widening gender gap.
In 2018, the OECD report showed that 327 million fewer women than men have a smartphone and can access the mobile internet. Another research released in October 2021 from the World Wide Web Foundation and Alliance for Affordable Internet has calculated that over the past 10 years, 32 low- and middle-income countries have lost $1 trillion by not helping more women get online.
Some of the barriers preventing girls and women from accessing the world wide web and engaging in online communities include affordable devices and services, outdated social frameworks (unpaid maternity leaves), inequalities in education, lack of employment equality, job segregation, lack of political representations, lack of legal protections, and many more. The same report from World Wide Web Foundation also reveals how expensive gender inequality is for the world according to Boutheina Guermazi, director of digital development for the World Bank.
So while we are aware of the fact the gender gap is deteriorating society, and we know what are the barriers nothing will change unless the mindset of each individual will. The social mindset is an important driver for change. It’s less tangible and harder to analyze but how society defines the value of men and women creates a whole complexity around the gender. The gender inequalities go back as far as 8000 years BC, and here we are 10.000 years later talking about a digital revolution with a gender inequality issue.
So why the societal mindset is so hard to change.
Ideally, people should be rational beings who consistently adjust their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors and align with new information and findings. But that is not the case according to psychology. Instead, people reduce dissonance by justifying their outlook, it is easier and produced less mental stress.
According to a licensed psychologist, Megan Call, Associate Director of the Resiliency Center, University of Utah Health, and her work finding, the knowedlge is power. Most frequently the individuals bounce back and forth between the stages as they work toward change. Researchers say successful change comes only in stages and how long it takes is an individual matter. One step towards closing the gender gap in a digital age is having a mindset that is evolving the same as technology, culture, and other aspects of society. The social mindset shift can be accelerated with an education, but it is up to every single individual to revisit her or his own beliefs and ask what can I do to reduce the gender gap, the 10.000-year-old issue does not belong to this world anymore.