Digitally savvy women are helping to close the gender gap in the workplace. And digital fluency, the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective, plays a key role in helping women achieve gender equality and level the playing field. 

A new research report from Accenture, provides empirical proof that women are using digital skills to gain an edge in preparing for work, finding work and advancing at work. While women still lag behind men in digital fluency in all but a handful of countries, improving their digital skills can change the picture.

If governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, gender equality could be achieved in 25 years in developed nations, versus 50 years at the current pace. Gender equality in the workplace could be achieved in 45 years in developing nations, versus 85 years at the current pace.

"Women represent an untapped talent pool that can help fill the gap between the skills needed to stay competitive and the talent available," said Pierre Nanterme, Accenture's chairman and chief executive officer. "There is a clear opportunity for governments and businesses to collaborate on efforts that will empower more women with digital skills – and accelerate gender equality in the workforce."    

Although digital fluency helps women advance in their careers, its impact has not closed the gender gap among executives — or extended to pay equality. Men are still, by far, the dominant earners by household for all three generations. This will change as more millennial women and digital natives move into management. The research found that, in Canada, 34 percent of millennial and gen X women surveyed aspire to be in leadership positions.

In Canada, 15 percent more women report using digital to prepare for and find work than men (81 percent and 66 percent, respectively). Yet, the research found that overall, when women and men have the same level of digital proficiency, women are better at leveraging it to find work. 35 percent of all survey respondents – men and women combined—agreed that digital enables them to work from home and 42 percent said it provides a better balance between personal and professional lives. The same percentage (42 percent) report digital has increased access to job opportunities.

Digital fluency among women in Canada is strong, ranking fifth among all countries surveyed, according to the research model. Canadian women did better than their male counterparts in using digital to secure and improve educational opportunities, but are behind when it comes to career advancement – one of the largest gaps between men and women across the report.

"There are many ways to narrow the gender gap in the workplace, but digital is a particularly powerful avenue," said Bill Morris, President and Senior Managing Director at Accenture in Canada. "Although gender equality will not happen overnight, investments made in building women's digital skills — through education, training and on-the-job learning — will help speed their progress at every career stage."