How does digital fluency lead to greater educational attainment, better employment prospects and higher career progression? And why do Swiss, German, and Austrian women rank only mid-table in the digital fluency rankings? We talked to Pamela Maruschke, Managing Director at Accenture.
You are interested about how the Digital Fluency of women can be pushed? Pamela Maruschke is a speaker at Ada Lovelace Festival 2016 on 13th. & 14th. Oktober 2016 in Berlin.
Pamela, what is the key purpose of the Digital Fluency Model in Accenture’s “Getting to Equal” study?
The Digital Fluency Model describes the connections between digitization and women’s professional success. The initial question was whether greater digital fluency would lead to greater educational attainment, better employment prospects and higher career progression. So basically, we wanted to know how women can leverage digitization and whether digital fluency can accelerate progress towards gender equality at work.
According to your study, Swiss, German, and Austrian women are only mid-table in the digital fluency rankings. Why do you think this is?
Digitization opens up new professional opportunities for women, both through flexible working and new career paths. Men do also benefit, of course, but our study shows that digital fluency has a greater impact on women’s careers. Yet other countries are currently more successful in teaching women those skills and creating advancement opportunities for them. In the German-speaking countries, there is still room for improvement, be it through new leadership models, childcare, or better opportunities to acquire digital skills early on in the education process.
Was there something in the results that you personally found surprising?
The most surprising finding for me was that digital fluency already has a positive influence on women’s education and employment, but not on the number of women who advance into leadership positions. This shows how important it is to change corporate culture and basic attitudes. In the future, part-time working and career progression, or flexible working and leadership positions, should no longer be seen as mutually exclusive. We also need to work harder to kindle leadership ambitions in women and to create attractive job profiles for them.
Could you please explain the term “unconscious bias” and maybe illustrate it with an example from everyday life?
The term “unconscious bias” describes the prejudices and stereotypes we all carry with us subconsciously. Most of us prefer people who are similar to us in some way, for example those who were shaped by similar cultural influences such as education or personal experiences, which may unconsciously trigger positive or negative emotions. People we like may receive slightly preferential treatment, while we also send subtle messages which shut out other people. At work, this may make the difference between being invited for a job interview and later promoted, or never getting such an opportunity in the first place. To address this issue, we have launched the “Unconscious Bias” training series worldwide. These events highlight hidden preconceptions, prejudices, and expectations, bring them to participants’ attention, and help them make unbiased, objective decisions. Here is one example: At one of our training sessions, we showed our recruiters identical CVs. The candidate’s secondary education, higher education, and professional experience were the same. Only the name, origin, and gender changed. The result was astonishing: Despite the identical CVs, some colleagues said they would invite the candidate for an interview, while others said they would not. Their personal experiences clearly influenced their reactions to the CV they had in front of them. At Accenture, this training is compulsory for all managers and recruiters, and open to all other employees as well.
What makes the Ada Lovelace Festival so special for you personally, and for Accenture as a company, that you decided to support it as a Premium Partner?
Conferences like the Ada Lovelace Festival are important platforms. They show that women in IT are not just an isolated phenomenon, and of course they provide great networking opportunities. Female role models are vital for attracting women into STEM jobs. At the Ada Lovelace Festival, we meet those role models and hear their success stories. And for Accenture as an employer, it is also a great opportunity to present ourselves as an organization where diversity is a celebrated, living part of our culture, and where you can meet exciting people from many different backgrounds.