Stereotypes about Women and Their Consequences. On the Path to Equal Opportunities in the Digital Economy

май 2020
54% of the population of Russia are women
60% of Russian women are employed
28% - this is the difference in salary between men and women with the same qualifications

About the Research

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This study set out to examine the mindsets in Russian society that cause inequality in the digital economy. We discovered that stereotypes affect all aspects of our lives. For this reason, we must increase women’s participation in the digital economy while also changing other aspects of life where strong stereotypes remain. This study examines how stereotypes about women affect the digital economy as well as the labour market, the economy in general and public and family life. The research was conducted in may and June 2019. The sample included 1,811 respondents aged 14+ living in 8 federal districts, 46 regions and 150 small towns of Russia. The research was conducted by the NAFI Research Centre and sponsored by the Council of the Eurasian Women's Forum under the Federation Council of the Russian Federation and by Google.

The Labour Market

There are 78,800,000 women in Russia, comprising 54% of the total population. Women are less included in the economy than men are. Only 60% of women aged 15 to 72 are employed as compared to 72% of men. Rosstat at the same time, increasing women's inclusion in the economy opens up great opportunities. According to experts from the Ministry of Economic Development, raising women's employment to the level of men's would increase Russia's GDP by 13–14% — or by 14 trillion roubles as of 2019.

About 40% of Russians agree that building a career and getting a promotion is easier for men, and only 6% believe that it is easier for women. One-third of Russians also say that it is easier for men to achieve appreciation and success, while only 8% believe that it is easier for women. In addition, women agree with these statements more often than men do, indicating that they feel disadvantaged by the lack of privileges that men enjoy.

The Labour Market

Although the share of female executives in Russia (41%) is among the largest in the world, it remains difficult for women to advance to top positions and salaries. Once a woman achieves the level of skilled specialist, her professional growth usually stops there. Although significantly more women than men are highly skilled specialists (63% versus 37%), there are still more male executives than female (59% versus 41%).

Women in the Digital Economy

The digital economy is the fastest-growing economic segment. On the one hand, this gives women more opportunities to overcome the gap on the labour market (especially by working remotely and combining work with parenting), and on the other hand, it creates a serious challenge for them. According to the World Economic Forum, women currently hold more than 57% of the jobs that automated production and business processes will eliminate by 2026. The stronger the stereotypes about women in IT are, the greater the threat they pose for women. Combatting stereotypes about women in IT and promoting women to more highly skilled jobs and leading positions in the digital economy is an important part of eliminating gender inequality.

Skills in Digital

Today, 15% of Russian jobs are linked to the digital economy, with women and men represented equally in that segment (52% versus 48%). Although some women work as IT specialists and system administrators, most are still salespersons, account managers and operators.

Women and men assess their skills in digital and information technologies equally, ranking them, on average, at almost half the level of their other skills in general (slightly more than 5 points out of 10).
Assessment of Professional Skills and Skills in Digital
Jobs associated with digital and information technologies are gaining in popularity: if they had to choose their future job now, 7% of Russian respondents would choose a digital job. Among all jobs, women most often say they would choose a job as a doctor, in the military or in the arts.

More male teenagers than female teenagers (14% versus 7%) want to work in IT. This trend is also true for adult respondents: more men than women (10% versus 5%) expressed a wish to work in IT.

Future Job
Parents have different expectations concerning the future of their children: 10% of parents would recommend an IT job to their sons, while only 3% would recommend it to their daughters.

In general, more than half of Russians do not agree that women are worse at jobs related to information systems, e-commerce and STEM than men are. Women feel less confident in this field than the assessment men give them: 55% of men disagreed that women are not as good at these jobs while 48% of women disagreed with it.

Overall, women show less interest in hardware and technologies: they follow technology news and trends and examine new products less often than men do. They are also less aware of the most popular software, such as messengers and social media, etc. This might be why women are less confident about this skill set: they are less often able to gauge the extent to which the computer and software they use are state-of-the-art and face more difficulties using the latest technologies, gadgets and apps. At the same time, women’s skills that are related directly to their work or hobbies (such as communication) are not less developed than men's are.

Digital Literacy Index

Young people have a higher digital literacy index but the overall trend matches that of adults, with boys (76%) leading girls (71%). Interestingly, boys demonstrate a higher digital literacy index thanks to considerable skills and knowledge in computer technologies (computer literacy). More than 70% of male teenagers know the purpose of the software installed on their computers and understand how to solve issues related to their computer and software installation, whereas only 40% of female teenagers have such knowledge and skills. The same difference exists in relation to technologies: only 42% of teenage girls are interested in new technologies, whereas 73% of teenage boys try to keep pace with and follow the latest trends in this area. Thus, we can see that these stereotypes are self-perpetuating and that, without providing additional motivation for girls in IT, the digital literacy gap between young women and men will not decrease and, in the worst case, might continue to grow.

Reasons for the Formation of Stereotypes about Women

Stereotypes are rooted unevenly among the population. According to a factor analysis, the adult population of Russia is divided into the following four segments:

Segments of Population

The public representation of personalities — i.e. the presentation of successful men and women in the media, mass culture and politics — plays an important role in combatting stereotypes. Increasing the visibility of women in active roles and in areas that are predominantly male can alter existing stereotypes. In today’s Russia, the idea of success is strongly associated with men. During the survey, the respondents were asked to give examples of successful contemporaries, whether men or women. Of the 4,351 responses, only 17% referred to women. At the same time, women mentioned successful women three times more often than men did: 24% versus 8%. Respondents most often remembered successful women only after thinking of men. Only 12% thought of women first. This demonstrates not only that women are less associated with success than men are, but also reveals a paradox: women are expected by society to succeed at both home and work, and yet are seen as inherently less successful.
Successful People

There are stereotypes that compel women to agree with this state of affairs and voluntarily abandon the idea of pursuing a career. 35% of men and 28% of women agree that a successful woman loses her physical attractiveness. This is a lose-lose situation: if a woman wins in terms of her career, then she loses in terms of how society perceives her. Another important aspect is that the market does little to meet the needs of working mothers. One-third of Russians (32%) believe that a woman must choose between a professional career and family, and this figure is even higher among parents. Only 17% of women that have no children believe that it is impossible to combine work and family, while almost twice as many women who do have children (31%) hold this point of view.
Successful Women

What Can Be Done

Increasing women's inclusion in the economy would open up great opportunities. According to experts from the Ministry of Economic Development, raising women's employment to the level of men's would increase Russia's GDP by 13–14% — or by 14 trillion roubles as of 2019. To overcome negative stereotypes about women, the following steps are necessary:

  • Increase the presence of public successful women in the media to show that a woman can be both successful and beautiful.

  • Increase the share of women in executive positions (managing companies, businesses and politics) in order to represent and protect the rights of women generally.

  • Hold awareness campaigns, encouraging women to seek a higher profile in society.

This study examined the following initiatives aimed at correcting the gender imbalance on the labour market:

  • the introduction of social quotas in jobs, that are traditionally considered to be "men’s" or "women’s

  • holding special workshops to discuss the correlation between stereotypes about women and salary levels, as well as ways to achieve pay parity between men and women

  • creating flexible work opportunities and appropriate forms of parental leave for both women and men

  • implementing an equal pay policy. Women's acceptance of lower salaries causes industrial sectors in which women predominate to become lower-paying and less prestigious.

To narrow the growing gap between girls and boys — and ultimately, between women and men — it is necessary to provide additional motivation to girls to pursue careers in information technologies.

In families, it is necessary to increase awareness among both children and adults, to counter misconceptions and provide alternative models of behaviour instead of perpetuating stereotypical expectations and strictly traditional social roles. If more fathers became involved in childcare, more women could remain on the labour market by combining work with mothering, thus leading to a rise in births.

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«Stereotypes about Women and Their Consequences. On the Path to Equal Opportunities in the Digital Economy»