Women and new forms of digital work 4.0: opportunities and threats

Women and new forms of digital work 4.0: opportunities and threats

Flexibility, specialized skills, “smart working” and goal orientation could really decide women's success in the digital environment. But is it really like that? In reality, the OECD data (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) offers a more precise picture of the opportunities and risks concerning women and the new forms of jobs in the the GIG Economy.

Although the change taking place is enormous, professionals who respond adequately to the job listing are quite few.

In addition, the World Economic Forum's The Future of Jobs and Skills Report highlighted that 65% of children that are just now starting their schooling will have jobs that currently do not exist.

Given the scale of the change we are experiencing, it is important to start thinking straight away about the opportunities and risks that this will imply for women and overall female employment.

The OECD data provides a picture of the coming future

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has dealt with the issue jobs and women in its report Going digital: the future of work for women. The analysis seeks to investigate whether digital transformation will strengthen or weaken the position of women in the labor market.

One major aspect has to do with flexibility. Women, despite having been emancipated, continue to take care of the home and family in their free time outside of work, which is why flexibility seems to be one of women’s greatest skills, as it is confirmed by the OECD data: women who work from home also have higher employment rates among mothers. And, where the organization of work is more flexible, a reduction in the pay gap with males has also been noted.

According to the OECD, the battle of flexible work plays with three fundamental variables:

• The voluntary nature of the adoption of these measures;

• Greater or lesser autonomy in the organization of work;

• Workplace safety.

But is flexibility really the number one skill of women? No, because if it is true that this makes it possible to reconcile domestic activities, it is also true that, if poorly managed, it can complicate the separation between private life and work, instead of facilitating reconciliation.

Another key aspect is computerization . The increasing automation will influence and determine the work life of all categories, men and women, even if the forecasts are not catastrophic. According to the institute's estimates, 9% of jobs in OECD countries are at high risk of computerization, while a further 25% could change significantly as a percentage between 50% and 75% of their functions could be automated.

The OECD continues to a rapid analysis of male and female employment in the various sectors, combining it with the propensity of these same sectors to work computerization and job loss, to conclude that there is no significant difference.

The recipe for future work: skills

The true antidote to unemployment is represented by skills . Even today it is difficult to find workers able to respond to changing market needs.

Only 5% of workers in possession of a university degree run a high risk of losing their jobs due to automation, which increases to 40% for workers with a high school education degree. At first glance, it’s good news for women, which in the OECD countries now make up the majority of graduates.

Two essential skills to hold onto a job:

• The soft skills or all those characteristics of the personality such as individual qualities and attitudes, social skills, communication and management;

• And specialist skills in ICT, related to the technological information sector.

It is precisely on the second skill that women must work to continue to be competitive on the job market. As noted by the OECD, in fact , there is an important difference between males and females: which holds 5.5% of men competent and women at only 1.4% competency.

What impact will digitalization have for female employment?

The OECD concludes its report by hinting at a series of policies that would make the digital revolution an opportunity for women and not a risk:

• Resolve the gap between men and women in access and, above all, in the use of new technologies;

• Promote flexible working methods using new technologies;

• Ensure that all workers, both men and women, have the same attention in the implementation of policies in support of outsourced workers;

• Adapt social protection systems to new forms of work.

Most of these proposals do not require a large budget, but competence and organization in the planning of public policies.

Home schooling: parental education

Among the various forms of jobs that the world 4.0 offers is homeschooling, which is a form of domestic education. Since it is not necessary to turn to teachers or people with special requirements, it could be an excellent opportunity for women who want to work from home, reconciling "freely," her work and private life. There are no particular obligations other than those dictated by the State Legislation, which obliges the students to undergo yearly examinations to assess progress and attest to the kids’ scholastic progress.

In the USA, England and Canada it is a widespread phenomenon ; and in France, Spain and Italy it is constantly growing, even if with a few problems here and there.

Among the pros, there is the chance of having a teacher available with more attention and consideration of the needs of the individual student. A 1-1 ratio teacher-students, less standardized rules and more flexible evaluation criteria.

Among the cons, the reduction of socialization time and the isolation of the student that would limit even more his or her relationships with their peers. This, together with the time of exposure to smartphones and computers could determine the inability to relate to the surrounding world and group dynamics.

What is certain is that for women it could be a good solution for having a job at hand, at home, and reconciling domestic activities with the working world.