Melina Cruz Villafaña
Expert Contributor

Women and the Digital Economy

By Melina Cruz | Tue, 08/16/2022 - 16:00

In Mexico, there are 64.5 million women. I have always said that women are the hidden engine of the Mexican economy; women, and specifically Mexican women, are a fundamental part of the country's economic development.

It is well known that a country that includes its women in the economy is more competitive and prosperous. However, in Mexico, women face various barriers; not only to entering but to staying and growing in the labor market regardless of the industry in which they work. Proof of this is the disparity between employed women and the low percentage of women in managerial positions.

Getting a job to earn your own income and have equal opportunities to develop in that position should be your own decision and not subject to imposed barriers.

Almost 18 percent of households in Mexico are made up of a woman without a partner and with children; this contributes to the fact that Mexican women spend more than twice as much time as men on unpaid work. While women spend, on average, 50 hours a week cleaning, preparing food, and taking care of their sons, daughters, and family members, men spend only 19.6 hours on the same tasks. This was one of the reasons we created Homely; to put in the hands of Mexican households a tool that would allow women to reduce their hours in these occupations and employ other women in a digital economy with access to better benefits.

Despite the clear differences regarding the employability of women, it is necessary to point out that according to INEGI figures, women constitute 65.2 percent of national GDP; with most of the female labor force engaged in tertiary activities (trade and services).

Likewise, it should be noted that women own a third (36.6 percent) of the micro, small and medium enterprises and, therefore, 39 percent of women over 25 years of age hold managerial positions in Mexico, and those who are businesswomen provide more stability to their workers.

Unfortunately, it is not news to anyone that the effects in terms of unemployment rates derived from the COVID-19 pandemic were strongly reflected in the female population. The setback in the expected advances that have taken so long to reach and agree on has resulted in the fact that today more than 20 million Mexican women are not economically active. In 2020, more than 1 million women left or lost their jobs, which meant a decrease of 5.2 percent in the number of employed women.

According to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), by 2030, GDP could be 15 percent higher if the government and the private sector implemented actions to add 8.2 million women to the economy. Unfortunately, despite the significant presence of women in the labor market, there is still segregation within the sectors of activity in the market and the jobs held by men and women, either through the concentration of women in certain sectors of activity and in certain occupations or through the unequal distribution of men and women in the hierarchical scale.

Currently, one in three women in Latin America still does not have her own income and women’s presence in the current digital economy is characterized by discriminatory biases. Closing the digital divide is more urgent today than ever after the devastating effects and setbacks of the pandemic. And to be very clear, the digital divide manifests itself as a more complex phenomenon than simple internet access.

The Digital Economy

The concept of the digital economy was introduced in the 1990s by Canadian financial expert Don Tapscott in his book, The Digital Economy, in which he talks about how the appearance of the internet and the digitalization of information could change the way of doing business in the future.

Specifically, the digital economy refers to the use of information technologies in the production processes of goods and services, as well as in their commercialization and consumption. Today, and almost without realizing it, internet connection and access to information in real-time have changed the way we access traditional products and services.

Thanks to the advances of the new digital age; Every day, millions of people are users of devices with an internet connection (mobile phones, computers, smartwatches and bracelets, etc.). This makes it possible for the digital economy to be accessible to them either to offer or demand goods and services.

Unfortunately, in the digital divide, the most difficult barrier to overcome is not that of access (provision of infrastructure and access to artifacts) but that of the use and skills necessary to benefit from the digital economy. There is evidence that the level of income is correlated with internet access and use, so once again those with fewer resources have less ability to improve their conditions in the digital economy.

Talking about the digital gap through a gender lens, the situation is even more alarming. In addition to having less access to devices and internet browsing, there is also a large disproportion between women and men pursuing careers related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). For this reason, organizations, such as UN Women and the International Labor Organization, have opened the conversation on digital inequities between men and women and have proposed the concept of the "basic digital basket," made up of a mobile phone, a tablet and facilities to buy data, to be delivered to women without access to technology and networks.

It is estimated that by 2050, 75 percent of jobs will be related to STEM. The digital economy represents another very important road toward autonomy of women, such as the employment opportunities that the information technology sector itself harbors. For this reason, it is essential to integrate more women at various levels (as users, as professionals, as creators or as leaders) who aim to promote more egalitarian values ​​on the internet, seeking to increase gender equality in the information society.

The handling of various tools can represent a fundamental component of the employability profile of women and a channel of social integration for them, both for salaried workers and self-employed workers.

Although the economic participation of women in employment has increased in recent decades, it stagnated from the first years of the 2000s and has subsequently receded as a secondary effect of COVID-19.

Regarding the use of the Internet, the data shows that a digital gender gap persists to the detriment of women; therefore, digital inclusion policies with a gender perspective are necessary both to promote a space of similar conditions and to improve those aspects in which women are at a clear and persistent disadvantage compared to men.

The application of technological solutions and tools opens a wide field for improving the well-being of women in many ways; different uses are assigned to technology in key areas, such as education, health, prevention and the fight against gender violence, and even financial inclusion.

To achieve this goal, greater strategy, education, investment, initiatives, innovation, networks, commitments and alliances are required, which can fully position gender equality in the world of technology, as well as technology in the world of equality. Let us promote the active inclusion of women as beneficiaries and essential protagonists in this technological revolution.


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