Harness women’s potential in fourth industrial revolution
By Soko Directory Team / September 27, 2017
The onset of new technological inventions is always underpinned by ambivalence at best, and fear and alarm, at worst.
This is apparent in the ongoing global discourse on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is constantly punctuated by apprehension of job losses across industries leading to further widening of the poverty gap.
Much as these are real and valid concerns, I would rather we view the conversations around the coming convergence and digital transformations as a site to redefine work and skills especially within the context of industry.
Herein lies massive opportunities for the workforce and a chance to position ourselves, as a country, ahead of the curve in readiness for the disruption.
The extent to which the fourth industrial revolution will re-calibrate work image, will require a major transformation in all things related to management, production and governance at workplace. A survey by LinkedIn indicated that most promising future jobs will rely heavily on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills.
Yet the current scenario depicts that, overall, STEM graduates are still few and far between, and furthermore, women continue to be greatly disadvantaged in this field. But what if in redefinition of work, we deliberately embark on diversity and inclusivity—and not just for the sake of representation—but towards the realisation and achievement of economic sustainability, come the envisaged disruption?
Increased unemployment is not simply driven by a lack of demand, but is exacerbated by a lack of competent skills that enable us to adopt to the transformations that are fast-changing work places.
The 2017 Executive Briefing on the Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa indicates that Kenya only captures 58 per cent of its full human capital potential compared to countries such as Mauritius at 67 per cent, Ghana at 64 per cent and South Africa 63 per cent, adding that 30 per cent of employers in Kenya are citing inadequately skilled workforce as a major constraint to business expansion.
With women, representing half the population at 50.1 per cent, we have an unprecedented opportunity to overturn the gender divide that has resulted in the above scenario and situate ourselves to well harness the emergence of new world trends.
According to the World Economic Forum, these drivers of change in the industrial revolution will impact some of the industries with the ‘largest traditional gender gap’ such as manufacturing and production.
WEF states that, women, due to under representation in this sector will only lose 0.37 per cent jobs, but on the other hand, stand to gain approximately over 100,000 jobs in architecture, engineering, computer and math functions—which is a modest estimate.
At this point it becomes critical to develop policies that will, for instance, look at ways in which STEM education can be more diverse and less traditional.
Policy-makers need to map out why, even when studies insist technology is being regularly introduced to women and youth demographics, there still remains a huge disconnect when it comes to them either scaling up businesses or increasing employability.
Could it be that perhaps what we are teaching is fast being outpaced by rising technological innovations, which in the end has us replicating the existing gender gaps in industry? Perhaps we also need to revisit the strategies being employed to ensure women’s businesses are competitive enough to be integrated into regional and global value chains.
Making businesses competitive means aspects of technological innovation and digital transformation are evident in the day-to-day business operations and enhance quality delivery for a global market.
Hence, ensuring more women are well-versed in STEM subjects guarantees the above as well as, cements our position as a regional leader in investments for own economic sustainability.
The Global Human Capital Report of 2017 places Kenya at an overall position of 78 out of 130 countries surveyed on human capital and at 59.48 per cent compared to the global average of 62 per cent. Kenya is at position 101 on development of future skills and position 74 in the use of specialised skills at work.
The fourth industrial revolution is a great opportunity for Kenya to reposition itself, by reinventing the workplace and harnessing the potential of women, as well as making inclusivity part of this innovation.
The writer is Kenya Association of Manufacturers chair lady
About Soko Directory Team
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