This study investigates how the digital revolution, which is characterized by artificial intelligence, big
data, cloud computing and mobile robotics, will affect gender equality in G20 countries, and how
governments and non-governmental initiatives may exploit the new digital technologies to narrow
these gender gaps in the future. The study focuses on four areas to derive its policy recommendations.
First, it assesses if digital technologies will affect gender equality in the foreseeable future by replacing women’s jobs to a different extent than men’s jobs. Second, it determines the state of the art in gender equality and gender-oriented policies in labor markets, financial inclusion and entrepreneurship in the G20 countries. Third, it identifies deficits in women’s digital inclusion that may impair the effectiveness of digitally empowered gender policies. It also shows how digital technologies may empower women. And fourth, it provides three detailed case studies. Two case studies,
coauthored by Urvashi Aneja and Vidisha Mishra, zoom deeper into the options for digitally
empowered gender policies in two selected countries, India and South Africa, while the third,
coauthored by Susan Coleman and Alicia Robb, highlights digitally empowered strategies for reducing
the gender gap in angel investment, a promising tool for fostering female entrepreneurship.
The estimates of the susceptibility of occupations to digitalization suggest that about 40-60% of jobs in
developed G20 countries will face a high risk of being digitalized within the foreseeable future. These
risks are not distributed evenly among women’s and men’s jobs. The good news is that new digital
technologies will likely replace women’s jobs to a lesser extent than men’s jobs. This is primarily
because many jobs typically held by low-skilled women, like those in health care or household
services, are less easily automatized than the jobs typically held by low-skilled men, like machine
operators or assembly-line workers. Many jobs typically held by low-skilled women require high nonroutine
manual or social skills that still constitute bottlenecks to automation. The bad news is,
however, that women may, on average, not benefit to the same extent as men from the vast
opportunities offered by new digital technologies, if they continue to be in a minority in those jobs
that will likely benefit the most from digitalization. These jobs are, among others, in management,
STEM occupations (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and entrepreneurship where
women are still strongly underrepresented in most G20 countries, as the analysis of the current
gender gaps reveals.
The analysis of current gender gaps and gender-oriented policies reveals that the G20 countries differ
widely from each other not only in the magnitudes of the gender gaps in labor markets, financial
inclusion and entrepreneurship but also in the scope of the governmental and non-governmental
programs and initiatives that address these gaps. The four “Anglo-American” countries among the
G20, Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, feature the greatest achievements
in terms of gender equality of all G20 countries and address most of the remaining gender gaps by
appropriate policy measures. However, they still feature wide gender gaps among highly qualified
workers, notably among STEM graduates, entrepreneurs and managers. Governments have launched
initiatives to bring more women into STEM professions or entrepreneurship but have done less to
break the “glass ceiling” that prevents women from advancing into leading management positions.
The three continental European G20 countries, France, Germany and Italy, show broadly similar
patterns in gender gaps and gender-oriented policies as the Anglo-American countries. Governments
appear to put more emphasis on breaking the glass ceiling for female managers through mandatory
quota for women in supervisory boards of large companies, though. Japan and Korea still have to
overcome cultural barriers to increase female labor force participation, guarantee women equal pay
and grant them equal access to higher education and highly qualified jobs, especially in STEM and
management occupations. The Japanese government appears to be more active in reducing these
gaps than the Korean government.
China and Russia exhibit rather small gender gaps in labor market participation and financial literacy,
compared to the other emerging economies among the G20. But the gender gaps among highly
qualified managers and self-employed are wide, and remain largely unaddressed by governmental
programs. Unlike Russia, China additionally exhibits wide gaps in higher education, which are also
largely unaddressed by policy to our knowledge. The three Latin American G20 countries, Argentina,
Brazil and Mexico, feature comparatively wide gender gaps in labor market participation and
unemployment, which their governments seek to address directly or indirectly by a variety of
programs. Gender gaps are also wide — and largely unaddressed by policy — among STEM graduates,
managers, entrepreneurs and — in Mexico — professionals. The gender gaps and policies in South
Africa are comparable to those in the Latin American G20 countries in several respects. However,
South Africa features a wider gap in higher education, which is apparently insufficiently addressed by
India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, finally, still lag significantly behind the other G20 countries
in terms of gender equality. They arguably still need to overcome significant cultural barriers to reduce
the large gender gaps in labor force participation and education, among others. While India, Indonesia
and Turkey have enacted a variety of programs that appear to address these gaps, Saudi Arabia has, to
the best of our knowledge, done very little.
The study also analyses the digital inclusion of women and reveals that gender gaps in the use of
digital technologies and digital literacy are negligible in the Anglo-American G20 countries as well as in
China, Russia, Japan, Korea and Brazil while they are widest in Argentina, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia and
Turkey. In many countries, including those that feature no gaps, governments or civil societies have
initiated specific programs for enhancing women’s digital literacy. Similar programs are, to our
knowledge, not available in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, where they are needed the most.
The results of the study corroborate several earlier studies in recommending the G20 to provide
universal, affordable, secure and open broadband internet access; foster women’s digital literacy;
encourage more women to go into tertiary education and STEM occupations; facilitate web-based
female entrepreneurship; and empower women financially through innovative digital finance tools
and e-government. In addition to these recommendations, the study recommends the G20 to take
action in the five following areas:
1. Initiate more high-profile research on the consequences of digitalization on women’s employment
prospects especially in emerging and developing countries, and continuously monitor women’s
employment prospects in all countries to establish an early warning system that may spark timely
policy responses if necessary.
2. Empower women in developing and emerging economies by assigning them more active and
supportive roles in existing, preferably digitized government programs. Conditional cash transfer
programs show that activating women’s superior social skills may help increase both program
effectiveness and women’s economic and digital empowerment.
3. Help women access those jobs that will most likely thrive best in the digital age by providing more
women with higher education and advanced digital skills. In combination with women’s superior
social skills, higher education and advanced digital skills promise particular high returns in the
4. Foster female entrepreneurship by supporting high-quality online platforms that provide training
for novice female entrepreneurs and bring them together with incumbent female entrepreneurs
who may serve as entrepreneurial role models.
5. Popularize innovative web-based instruments for female entrepreneurs to access financial capital,
such as high-quality digital platforms for angel investors, venture capital investors or equity
crowdfunding that bring together female entrepreneurs and female investors. Additionally
promote innovative ways of risk assessment that rely more on transaction histories and other
information from the web than on traditional forms of security guarantees.