Nearshore Americas

Women’s Unequal Participation Hinders LATAM’s Digital Economy

The United States has never seen a woman becoming its president, but women are heading governments in Brazil and Argentina. But unlike the United States, women still make up a small portion of the population in Latin America’s corporate sector.

A recent study by the UN agency ECLAC finds womenfolk struggling to participate even in the region’s digital economy. “Women equal men in terms of Internet access in Latin America, but are a clear disadvantage when it comes to using it,” says the report from the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The report titled “Women in the digital economy: breaking through the equality thresholdsays that average Internet usage rates among women are 8.5% lower than among men in 10 countries. The gap is narrowing in Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay, but widening in other countries.

This disadvantage has turned out to be the biggest stumbling block on governments’ efforts to boost digital economy and generate jobs.

In recent years, all countries saw an increase in the number of men and women using the World Wide Web. But woman’s increasing inability in making use of the Internet is worrying the policy makers.

The difference between men and women, in terms of Internet usage, is almost 5% (39.3% versus 44%) in Chile – which has one of the highest Internet usage rates overall. In Peru, 26% of women and 34.1% of men report using the Internet.

This digital gender gap is more common in urban than rural areas, and mainly affects older women of all levels of education, says the report.  In El Salvador, the difference between men and women with higher education is five points (70.3% versus 75.5%), while in Honduras the difference is just under three points (71.2% and 74%). In Brazil, 4.3% of women and 7.4% of men aged 65 and above report using the Internet (and this pattern of difference is repeated in countries such as Costa Rica (3.1% and 7.1%) and Ecuador (2.1% and 4.1%)).

The gender gap is mainly blamed on poverty and illiteracy. In wealthy countries, such as Uruguay, a large portion of womenfolk is using the Internet. Interestingly, employed women have been found using the Internet more than that of their male counterparts.

“This piece of information suggests that having ICT skills can be a powerful tool for women to enter the labour market,” says ECLAC. According to statistics, almost half of the region’s women have no link to the labor market and one in ten women is employed in domestic service.

The UN agency says that there is an urgent ‘need for policies that prevent labor segregation, avoid wage gaps and promote a fair sexual division of labor.’

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In addition, the Commission highlights women’s lack of participation in the production of digital content. “In the videogames industry, for instance, women are often represented as passive and sexual objects, while men are portrayed as active and violent subjects.”

Most of the Latin American and Caribbean countries now have national digital strategies that have resulted in considerable progress in providing the entire population with access to ICTs. Given the report, Ecuador, Mexico and the Dominican Republic are doing everything they can to promote gender equality in the digital economy.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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