Developing countries will need to learn this lesson as well if they are to move forward. To some extent, most countries already have. Governments in the developing world are increasingly investing public funds in education and training – often focused on skills needed for the digital economy. But private-sector involvement is essential too. Skills are an intangible asset that you cannot see, but they drive increased value in your organization. To survive and thrive, the organization’s productivity and operational efficiency need to keep on getting better. These improvements come from the ever-evolving skill sets of people within the team.
But so far, most government and business efforts have been focused on how the needs of low-, medium- and high-skilled individuals can be met. How can it be achieved for women? For women to grow from being the minority in digital technology companies, they need better access to startup funding with greater participation in VC firms with the promise of significant returns. So women are no doubt the ultimate beneficiaries and have often been leaders in this new trend toward upskilling in the workplace. The first step is to listen to what women want. Based on that data, companies need to create formal or informal reskilling programs designed specifically for women. This will require a major commitment from senior leadership backing up the desire and resources to make it happen.
The problem, however, is that they are overwhelmingly in industries that aren’t great for women. And this fundamental imbalance is a core reason women are leaving. As we face the undeniable acceleration of workplace disruption, we know that there will be no simple solution. No one sees upskilling as a silver bullet. But if there is any hope of reducing workplace disruption’s unproductive tensions around gender, it will come from mounting a meaningful response to upskilling.
Studies show that upskilling is a great way for the individual to progress. Skill shortfalls in engineering and technology (the hardest skill areas to find) are already causing significant problems within organizations too. Risk-averse employers may be reluctant to invest in higher education if it is not immediately apparent how it can benefit their bottom line. Will learning make a big difference in the life of women? In the past 15 years, technology has changed dramatically. We have gone through an evolution of technological changes and devices – from PCs, smartphones to tablet devices and smart wearable devices.
Digital disruptions and extreme events have a tremendous potential to be the ultimate equalizer in the workplace. Yet, this will only happen when women seize the opportunity these events present. If reskilling can upskill large numbers of digital natives, then these women have a real chance to make dizzying gains. Because reskilling is key to doing just that. It’s not enough for a few stars or outliers to pull through; it needs to be an across-the-board initiative. Reskilling offers a longer-term, more sustainable solution to improve the economic value of your female employees. The cost to bring a female professional up to speed on new skills is small, but its impact can be huge.