Six strategies to increase young women’s access to digital jobs

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The digital economy can create new job opportunities for young women and help address the persistent gender disparity in the labour market.

Jobs involving remote, online, flexible work can help young women overcome mobility constraints, challenge restrictive gender norms, and reduce longstanding occupational segregation in traditionally male-dominated industries. However, practitioners would need to be intentional about using better-targeted strategies in program design to help young women succeed in high-quality digital jobs , and also move up to higher skilled and higher paying digital jobs over time.

Six strategies to increase young women’s access to digital jobs
Students of Senegal’s Gaston Berger University, home to the Africa Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Information & Communications Technology. Photo: Sarah Farhat/The World Bank –

S4YE’s recent Jobs Solutions Note, Jobs Interventions For Young Women In The Digital Economy,” identifies practical strategies for development practitioners to design gender-inclusive digital jobs programs.

1. Assess the demand drivers for digital jobs, and then equip young women with skills to perform those jobs

Programs must first identify where new digital jobs are likely to be created. In the Digital Jobs for Youth: Young Women in the Digital Economy report, S4YE identified four key drivers of demand for digital jobs: (a) Public Sector, (b) Private Sector, (c) Online Outsourcing, and (d) Digital Platforms for on-demand services (e.g., Uber) or e-Commerce (e.g., Etsy, Alibaba). Mapping local drivers of digital jobs can help better target jobs programs. For example, a program to support job creation for rural women with limited digital skills may focus on digital microwork opportunities. In contrast, another program for unemployed, college-educated young women could invest more in digital entrepreneurship jobs.

2. Be creative and use multiple recruitment strategies  
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Young women face severe time constraints due to household responsibilities. Enrolment strategies need to be creative and use multiple channels like community mobilization techniques, door-to-door outreach, strategically located information kiosks, and social media advertisements. Plan International’s  Saksham project in India used announcements on cars to spread awareness.

Accenture,  S4YE’s private sector partner, found that educating family members on the benefits of young girls receiving digital skills training increased the likelihood that these girls would later pursue tech-related education or employment opportunities.  Establishing training centers in safe and accessible locations can also help reduce mobility constraints and increase enrollment. In South Africa, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator adopted a “one-taxi-ride-away-from-the-job” rule—beneficiaries were assigned to jobs within a reasonable distance of their home addresses.

3. Address high dropout rates

Young women often withdraw from training programs because they do not perceive a clear connection for how their new skills will improve employment prospects. On-the-job training can provide financial motivation. The World Bank’s Gaza Emergency Cash for Work and Self-Employment project, for example, provided two months of digital skills training and six months of on-the-job support to young women. This allowed women to earn an immediate income in e-work opportunities while receiving training on complex “e-lancing” contracts and software development.

Meanwhile, S4YE’s partner Laboratoria, a Latin America based social enterprise working with young women, takes an upfront approach to dropouts. After many young women withdrew from the program because it was too demanding, Laboratoria staff adjusted their intake screening interviews to identify traits, such as creative problem solving and determination, that ensure that young women meet program demands.

4. Focus on building self-confidence
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Program teams need to dedicate class time for beneficiaries to speak in front of peers, including expressing difficulties with courses, which can also help prevent dropouts.  Some programs find that designing women-only cohorts helps create comfortable spaces for young women to learn and freely share their thoughts and ideas.

Speaking and connecting with female role models in digital jobs and learning about their experiences is an important strategy to build the confidence young women need to navigate traditionally male-dominated ICT careers.

5. Train, mentor, and support female digital entrepreneurs

While digital technology is creating new entrepreneurship opportunities, young women face several barriers. The World Bank’s 2019 Profiting from Parity report is a helpful resource for practitioners designing programs to support female digital entrepreneurship. In addition to training, mentoring, and supporting women’s financial inclusion, digital job programs should enhance the professional networks of young female digital entrepreneurs.

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S4YE’s partner, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), launched the #eSkills4Girls initiative, which brought together female tech leaders at the #eskills4girls Africa Meetup to help young female entrepreneurs and industry experts network, discuss challenges, and develop strategies to scale initiatives.

6. Leverage infrastructure projects for scaling up job creation
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COVID-19 has highlighted the increasing urgency with which the digital divide needs to be addressed. As governments increase investments in internet connectivity, digital infrastructure, and rural broadband, it is essential to embed an explicit jobs agenda in those large public infrastructure projects.

For example, the World Bank’s Kosovo Digital Economy Project (KODE), which aims to expand high-speed broadband coverage in remote areas has ensured that one of its project components is exclusively designed to support the training of young people, especially women, to access new online work opportunities. Integrating a jobs lens in digital infrastructure projects will maximize the economic impact on local livelihoods.


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