Photo via EFE

Women20 (W20) held a conference in Buenos Aires this Monday and Tuesday, titled “The Effects of Digitalization on Women of the G20,” which focused on gender equality in today’s technological age. From their studies, Argentina ranks 5th out of the G20 in gender equality (and 33rd globally), falling behind Germany, South Africa, France, and the United Kingdom. While Argentina has relatively progressive policy to promote women in the workforce, like the Gender Parity Law, the actual representation and conditions of women in the public and private workforce is disparate.

G20 is a group of 19 countries and the European Union that seeks to improve financial stability worldwide. W20 is a dialogue forum, born from its 2014 summit, whose objective is to “[reduce] the gender employment gap by 25 percent by 2025 (’25 by 25′).” To do so, they focus dialogue on three pillars: women’s inclusion in the labor market, in finance, and within the systems and sectors associated with the “digital age.”

The Buenos Aires conference honed in on how technological advancements may contribute to reducing the gender gap and women’s overall representation in the workforce in Argentina, particularly entrepreneurship opportunities, an indicator of economic opportunity and gender equality. Present were female powerhouses, including the Argentine-German Department of Industry and Commerce, Woman of the Year Mabel Bianco, business leaders like Viviana Zocco, politicians like Paula Bertol, and economists like Beatriz Nofal. 

Tech’s Effect

According to Dr. Alina Sorgner, assistant professor of business dynamics, innovation and transformation economics at the University of Friedrich Schiller of Jena, Germany and principal investigator for the GIZ (a W20 technology study), explains that while men have already been displaced in the job market by technology at rates higher than women, it is only a matter of time until women will be affected too.

“The first wave of employment loss due to digitalization… affects men more than women because in repetitive jobs, routine and manual, it is more likely to find a man than a woman… Women will be more affected in the second movement of digitalization, when machines learn to better imitate human interactions. Right now, it is faster and cheaper to hire a woman, but these positions run a greater risk of disappearing.”

Photo via ServidorNoticias
Photo via ServidorNoticias

Sorgner assures us, however, positions that require creativity, entrepreneurship, empathy and leadership are more secure for women, as they cannot be imitated by technology. Yet, women are less represented in the business workforce in every country globally. Argentina ranks 101 out of 144 countries studied in economic opportunities for women in business. Overall, Argentina has 25 percent less young female entrepreneurs than men, a greater divide than in Brazil and India.

Women in the Argentina Workforce

Why are women struggling for gender equality in the work force in Argentina? On paper, Argentina has a history of female leaders, including two female presidents Isabel Martínez de Perón and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In the City of Buenos Aires the Gender Parity Law requires an equal split of women and men on ballots.

While women are on the ballot, they are not elected at the same rate as men, and the positions they occupy are lower in the chain. According to CIPPEC, an Argentine think tank that promotes “A just, democratic and efficient State that improves the quality of life for all Argentine citizens,” 50 percent of employees for the National Executive Power (PEN) are women, but only 30 percent of management positions are held by women. In the National Legislative Branch, 34 percent of deputies are women, but a woman has never presided over the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation. Finally, in the Judicial branch, women hold more spaces in provincial courts (44 percent) than national courts (34 percent). In the Supreme court, only one (out of five) of the judges is a woman.

Gender Map of Argentina Justice, 2013. Office of Women, CSJN

While women’s representation in government is improving, national private sector statistics are slower to progress. CIPPEC, in combination with W20 studies, sheds light on how women are actually represented in the Argentina workforce:

  • 65 percent of men are employed, whereas 44 percent of women are
  • Women earn 27 percent less than men for the same type of work
  • Women occupy 30 percent of leadership or owner positions in private business (and still earn less)
  • Women are more likely to work part-time and lower level positions than men
  • Women allocate an average of 6.4 hours a day to child care, whereas men allocate 3.4
  • Less women graduate with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees

Sorgner points to expectations of home and child care as part of the reason may choose lower level positions, but also gender stereotypes that limit women’s ability to climb the corporate ladder. She also notes that female entrepreneurs have greater difficulties securing financing than men.

Looking Forward

W20 technology goals for the “25 by 25” initiative prioritizes women education in STEM fields, digital training targeted for girls and women, increase investment opportunities and tax-incentives for female entrepreneurs, strengthen female networking in economic, social and political sectors, among others.

Sorgner praises crowd sourcing as a financing platform that has given young female entrepreneurs greater funding opportunities and helped connected female business women in Argentina.

W20 supports policy change on a national level, too, particularly women-specific and community-wide legislation. Women-specific policy tries to construct programs for mentorship, continued education, training, and community construction. Social policy would work towards increasing (gender inequity) awareness and infrastructure.

Girls in Tech,” a pro-workforce women’s group in Argentina, is already working to empower women in the digital age. Their goal is to improve learning and networking between female entrepreneurs and investors, as well as improving the confidence women have in themselves in their voice within business. From “Hackathon,” a programming competition, to their “WORK” project, which holds educational workshops for women, the organization is creating a space for women to gain the skills to excel in technological fields.

The discussion of women in business will continue in Berlin, Germany April 25th and 26th this year, under Angela Merkel, President of G20, during the G20 summit. Argentina is scheduled to host the 2018 G20 summit, where the dialogue on the topic of tackling the gender gap in employment will be re-evaluated.