The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people across the world, yet a new report from the World Economic Forum suggests that women have been one of the hardest hit gender groups.
WEF’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2021” found that the pandemic has pushed back gender parity by an entire generation. Specifically, the report notes that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the gender gap between men and women across various professional sectors will now take 135.6 years to close, rather than the previously expected 99.5 years.
Gender parity within fast growth professions
Vesselina Ratcheva, new economy and society lead for the World Economic Forum, told Cointelegraph that the “Global Gender Gap Report” is now in its 15th year of benchmarking the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
Ratcheva further noted that the report focuses on gender parity within fast-growth professions — such as cloud computing, engineering, artificial intelligence, content production, people and culture, etc. — along with the types of skills needed for each. “Among the eight distinctive job clusters the report focuses on, only people and culture and content production are currently at gender parity,” said Ratcheva.
While blockchain and crypto are not specifically mentioned in the report, Ratcheva explained that sectors such as cloud computing, data, artificial intelligence, engineering and product development are likely to strongly represent both blockchain and digital asset professions. As such, Ratcheva noted that while it’s apparent women remain a minority within the blockchain sector, there does appear to be a higher level of female participation compared to other fields:
“Between these sectors, female representation is on average 29%, which can serve as an optimistic estimate of the level of female representation in blockchain and crypto, but coordinated efforts are still needed to reach gender equality.”
Achieving gender equality after COVID-19
It’s important to point out that the “Global Gender Gap Report 2021” was published a year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The report notes that the health emergency and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men, further reopening gaps that could have been closed sooner.
For instance, the report found that women are now losing jobs at higher rates than men, citing findings from the International Labour Organization that show 5% of women have lost jobs compared with 3.9% of males since the pandemic began. The report states:
“This is partly due to their disproportionate representation in sectors directly disrupted by lockdowns, such as the consumer sector. Data from the United States also indicates that women from historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups are worst affected.”
Saadia Zahidi, managing director for the World Economic Forum, added that the pandemic has impacted gender equality in both the workplace and the home, hindering years of progress. “If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow,” she said.
Sue Duke, head of global public policy at LinkedIn, pointed out that women still aren’t well represented in the majority of fast-growing roles, which is leading to greater gender parity challenges moving forward.
In order to combat these issues, Zahidi suggests that both companies and governments need to focus on building diversity, equity and inclusion into their plans for recovery. “Assessing candidates on their skills and potential, and not just their direct work experience and formal qualifications, is central to that. Skills-based hiring is key if we’re going to make our economies and societies more inclusive,” she noted.
In terms of closing the gender parity gap in fast-growth professions, such as those related to blockchain and crypto, Ratcheva explained that a two-pronged approach is needed. She mentioned that it’s critical to keep building out the pipeline of women in science, technology and engineering fields. At the same time, she noted this growth should be supported by broader diversity, equity and inclusion across workplaces, particularly within fields where women are under-represented, adding further:
“It’s important to send a substantial signal to women looking to move into professions where they will be under-represented, that there are mechanisms in place for them to thrive and progress. Without such assurances we are asking women to make an irrational investment in STEM skills.”
Despite current challenges, it’s encouraging to see that a number of blockchain and crypto companies are taking steps to ensure female participation. For example, Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director of the Stellar Development Foundation, told Cointelegraph that one of the main factors to increasing the impact of women in blockchain, and specifically in leadership roles, is through education and representation.
Dixon explained that the Stellar Development Foundation strives to educate women on the benefits of blockchain technology through frequent webinars and events. “By having a strong female leadership team, SDF is showcasing the importance of representation in emerging technologies for young women around the world.”
Ratcheva also remarked that it’s positive to see that governments and businesses have found effective ways to ensure equity and meritocracy in employment, noting that the majority of economic data shows women are gaining educational qualifications at the same rate as men.
With this in mind, Ratcheva believes that the tech sector is poised to start making gains in hiring a larger share of women for senior management roles, noting that there has been particular progress in female representation in product development positions. However, Ratcheva is aware that as businesses and governments attempt to revive economies, more gender-equal recovery strategies need to be implemented to ensure women can move into fast-growing, high-paying fields.
According to the report, the countries that have made the most progress on this front are the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Lithuania. “The UAE made gains in the number of women elected into parliament, as well as the share of women in leadership roles in business and public policy. New Zealand made progress in gender-equal remuneration and political empowerment for women,” said Ratcheva.