Plugging the Digital Skills Gap by Drawing on Female Talent

Simon Walker, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Kubrick. has some ideas to help businesses get on the paths of glory.

Ever since COVID-19 sent shockwaves throughout the world – it accelerated an already existing movement towards data-digital transformation amongst companies.

Technologies such as AI, blockchain, robotics, and cloud computing have been reinforced at a wide scale within organisations to boost efficiencies. Through automating business processes and providing insight through data analysis – operational models have been revolutionised and efficiency has been improved across all touchpoints.

The Current Digital Skills Landscape

Although the seamless combination of these technologies has catapulted businesses’ success – one pullback is preventing them from unlocking the value of these developments. That is the demand for digital skills amongst companies is high but the supply of available talent to fill these positions is low. Currently, one-third of European citizens don’t have the appropriate digital skills and 57% of enterprises are finding it difficult to fill ICT-related roles. Without having qualified people to learn and apply these digital skills – businesses around the world will find it difficult to remain valuable or competitive and this gap will come at a cost on a global scale.

In a recent survey of companies with over 1,000 employees across automotive, banking, and consumer products – business leaders recognised that the lack of digital skills talent would lead to a “loss of competitive advantage.” Having a competitive advantage is key for businesses to differentiate themselves from their competitors and generate value for their company – so without digital talent, they are not achieving an important goal of the business. The study went one step further and claimed that if the gap wasn’t addressed in the next two to three years it would impact product design, innovation, and customer satisfaction.

What is Driving the Digital Skills Gap?

The gender divide plays a central role whereby, we see society automatically excluding a segment of the population that can easily be trained and upskilled in digital skills. From an early age, boys are encouraged to undertake STEM-related subjects whilst women’s capabilities in these courses are underestimated. A cross-national study of assessment found that the majority of students taking STEM-related courses were boys and girls more often than not dropped out of these subjects. These academic choices made by children from an early age are translating into their future choices in the job market. Data from 2020 showed that women made up 14% of the cloud computing workforce, 20% of engineering, 32% of data and AI workforces.

Another contributing factor to the digital skills gap is job descriptions. These descriptions tend to have masculine job titles, descriptions, and pronouns which are discouraging qualified female candidates from applying for these roles. In job descriptions, it is common to find more male-centered terms than females which explains why we are seeing more men in these roles. Replacing masculine words with gender-inclusive terms will encourage more women to apply for these types of occupations. Also, improving existing recruiting practices will be equally important. Rather than focusing on highly specialized skills such as blockchain development and complex data analysis – recruiters will need to shift their focus from concrete skills to more adaptable ones. With it globally estimated, that 40-160 million women will need to change occupation by 2030 – these changes will be essential to broadening the workforce.

A Diverse Workforce Drives Stronger Value Creation

It is known that there is a link between diversity and business performance. This is because different perspectives are brought to solve problems meaning stronger intellectual potential is used to drive innovative outcomes. Across all aspects of a business’s performance from profitability to customer satisfaction – team members from diverse backgrounds can supercharge the business in comparison to non-diverse teams.

Ultimately, we are sitting at a tipping point whereby, the industry need for digital talent is outweighing the supply. The onus is on companies to remove gendered barriers to employment within the industry so that women can fill the skills gap. These obstacles will need to be removed from primary education all the way through to the workplace to ensure these digital gaps are filled with talent that can be upskilled. Bringing in those that have traditionally been left behind will be the solution for the digital skills gap.

By Simon Walker, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Kubrick.

Kubrick searches for talent and trains them in a four-month programme. The training programme focuses on skills such as data engineering, data management and governance, product delivery, machine learning, and cloud transformation. Formed in 2016 and headquartered in the UK, Kubrick supports organisations such as UBS, Sainsbury’s, Total, Credit Suisse, P&G, and Morgan Stanley. 

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