Generation Gender Equality: Digital Opportunities for an Equal Working World

The motto for the 113th International Women's Day on Wednesday is #EmbraceEquity. But despite the progress made in recent years, gender stereotypes often persist in the world of work. It's a reality whose remnants we still encounter every day. But could a new generation overcome the gender gap in - or even thanks to - the digital world of work?

According to a Report of the AllBright Foundation since September 2019, there are more women on German boards than men ... named Thomas or Michael. Yes, you read that right. With all the female empowerment efforts of recent years, that sounds like a bad joke. But it's a fact: Equal rights are making progress in Germany, but often at a snail's pace in many areas. This seems paradoxical when you consider the speed at which digitization has swept through our working world in recent years.

Of course, the Corona virus is not entirely innocent in this. It has played a key role in driving the development of our digital working methods. It is alarming that it took a pandemic to break up the old methods and patterns of our working world. Dramatically, however, gender-stereotypical thought patterns have remained largely unaffected. What would it take to give women equal opportunities in our working world without exception?

Gen GE is in the starting blocks 

There are developments that give cause for optimism. Workers up to the age of 30 apparently make fewer differences between the sexes than their older colleagues, as a IZA study shows. Of course, this result is first of all a generalization, because young people are not a homogeneous group. But it is a trend that gives us hope.

It's a nice thought that the next generation - a "Generation Gender Equality" - could rid the world of work of antiquated gender stereotypes at a rapid pace. At least, as soon as their share of the workforce increases significantly in the next few years.

The reality of life for people under 30 is naturally different from that of older population groups. They grew up in a time when equality was increasingly taken for granted. Equality is not a foreign word for them. And therein lies an unprecedented opportunity. With the current generational mix and upcoming generational change in the workplace, a new native understanding of diversity and equality will take hold in companies.

Change is near, young talent is scarce

This means that the company needs a sufficient number of younger employees to make the switch. In view of the impending shortage of skilled workers, however, this is becoming increasingly difficult. Demographic change will lead to a massive loss of workers in the coming years as many baby boomers enter retirement. According to estimates by the German Federal Statistical Office, by 2036 the German labor market will have around 12.9 million fewer skilled workers than in 2021 - a drop of around 30 percent. As a result, companies have little choice but to introduce hybrid working models in order to be attractive to potential, young employees.

Digital = Equal Natives 

This leads us to the next beacon of hope: digitization! It has not only revolutionized our working world. It also offers new opportunities for equality, especially by enabling more flexible work models like Virtual First. Instead of the outdated 9-to-5 office job, Virtual First allows concentrated desk work and thinking to be done undisturbed in the home office, while the trip to the office is only necessary for meetings. This makes it much easier to combine work and family life, an advantage - even today - for women, as they often have even heavier family commitments than men.

As more and more men take time off to raise children and run the family household as the generations change, new forms of work bring great benefits to both genders in not losing their participation in the labor market. Hybrid or remote work models offer greater opportunities to diversify a company's workforce. As an example, people living far away from the company site today can be digitally integrated into work processes and teamwork in such a way that everyone feels as if they are in the same place. So why not think digitization even further ahead in terms of diversity and equality?

Digitization has evolved rapidly in recent years, and companies have created digital tools and features that allow us to communicate more sensitively and diversely. Increasing diversity and openness to innovative ideas or visions are spurring technology companies to consciously think about equality and diversity as early as the product development stage.

Courage to DigitALL Equality 

When digitization, gender equality and diversity are thought of together, our companies and our entire society win. Right now, this change is within our grasp to fully exploit the opportunities of digitization. We just need to have the courage to let the spirit of Generation Gender Equality work in our companies. We will all benefit from this - not just us women!

* Andrea Trapp is, Vice President Business International at Dropbox and leads her international teams out of Munich. The economics graduate and change management expert has spent 22 years - at times abroad - in pan-European management or board positions at international tech and PropTech companies. Her focus has always been on digital leadership and the optimization of transformation processes.

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