Happy International Women’s Day! #PressForProgress, this year’s campaign theme, inspires all of us to take action on gender parity: Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. I am convinced that the digital world offers new and creative ways to change this. Key career drivers such as networking, visibility, and flexible working models are taking on new shape in the digital era. This will contribute to women’s professional development as well as closing the gender gap.
Today is International Women’s Day! This year’s theme “press for progress” calls upon all of us to push for gender parity. It sends a strong message to business leaders to reinforce their shared ownership in the road to gender balance. As a female CEO in the logistics industry, promoting gender diversity is at the top of my agenda – something that you may already know from my previous publications.
I believe digitalization, and particularly social media platforms, pose novel ways to overcome barriers and climb the career ladder, e.g. through more effective networking, increased visibility, and new ways of working.
Pressing for progress – For more women in leadership
Over the years, we’ve made great strides towards improving women’s position in business and society. This is something we celebrate today. But at the same time, we are far removed from having accomplished across-the-board gender equality. In the corporate world, this is no different.
Globally, we are closing the gender gap in critical areas such as health and education, but for economic participation it has actually widened, resulting in a gap that is only 58 percent closed (see the annual Global Gender Gap Report 2017 by the World Economic Forum).
In many industries, women are still underrepresented at executive level. Women on average hold less than 50 percent of leadership positions, and only 20 percent in industries such as energy and mining, and manufacturing. Progress has been too slow: Over the past decade, the proportion of female leaders increased on average by just over two percent (see the related article).
These numbers confirm that the call to press for progress is as relevant as ever.
Overcoming gender inequalities with digitalization
But is there a way to finally break these old patterns? Our connected societies might be the key. The digital era brings about various benefits, which – when leveraged effectively – help to push more women into leadership and ultimately correct gender disparities. There are two key areas that exemplify how digitalization can create new opportunities for women:
1. Networking in the digital world
Getting embedded in relevant networks is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Networks make it possible to exchange experiences amongst peers and gain access to career insights and opportunities. However, it often seems challenging to purposefully cultivate professional relationships.
Today, social media provides new opportunities for women who may have found it difficult, or perhaps didn’t have the chance, to network proficiently in the past. In the digital space, there are additional routes to connect with relevant peers, role models, and opinion leaders – all necessary for a supportive professional network.
Women need to become aware of the value of digital networking in addition to face-to-face relationship Building.
2. Gaining visibility through social media
When striving for a leadership position, getting noticed is very important. Social media platforms are a great way to gain additional visibility. Female professionals can use social media platforms to position themselves on their topics of expertise and build a strategic personal brand accordingly. The digital arena, moreover, provides additional room to voice opinions. All of this contributes to increased visibility amongst colleagues, peers, clients, and (future) employers – a driving force behind career growth. The powerful effect of getting noticed, also within your own company, should not be underestimated. Getting “louder” on social media then can have an extremely positive effect on networking as well.
Through my personal digital journey, I have been able to raise my voice, exchange with my community, and reach out to other female executives more effectively.
Women have to develop the necessary skills to utilize digital tools for the benefit of their careers. With the acceleration of digital transformation, these skills will increasingly become a prerequisite for professional growth. As business leaders, we play a crucial exemplary role in this. We need to step it up and become leaders in the digital sphere as well.
We still have a distance to go
Establishing gender balance is like a marathon, and we still have quite a distance to go. Enabling women to progress in their careers is a key component in the journey towards equality, and, in my experience, digital tools can make a difference.
Digitalization is transforming the way people connect, share, and support each other. I want to inspire women to step out of their comfort zones and grasp the opportunities digitalization offers to be visible, to cultivate meaningful relationships, and raise their voices. In this way, we can take more control over our career paths and professional self-actualization.
Obviously, it takes more than dedicated women to change the system. Business leaders need to appreciate women’s impact in the board room – this mindset needs to be deeply-rooted in the organizational culture and long-term strategy. Accordingly, companies need to create visible and accessible chances for women to move into executive roles.
Digitalization is without a doubt a means to press for progress. And as more women enter the C-level, this will have a multiplier effect for other women looking to develop their careers.