Young women are less sure than young men that they have the digital skills to succeed in the workplace, Accenture research has revealed

Young women in Ireland are less confident in their digital skills than young men. Just 59% of young women compared to 80% of young men believe that they have the digital skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. While young people are no strangers to the world of digital, young women are also less confident than young men that Gen AI will have a positive impact on their career prospects (48% of women, compared to 55% of men).

This is according to new research from Accenture, who surveyed 18–24-year-olds ahead of International Women’s Day. The findings reveal a clear gender divide when it comes to perceptions of generative AI and digital skills as young people look to enter the workforce.

Despite some hesitancy around its impact, young people are still eager to embrace generative AI, with 86% of 18–24-year-olds interested in its capabilities. Nearly three out of 10 young people (29%) are using generative AI multiple times a week. In addition, three in five 18–24-year-olds (59%) are actively using the technology for writing text and 57% of young women are using generative AI to create ideas, compared to 43% of young men. 36% of those surveyed believe generative AI will free up time at work to help them to become more efficient. Furthermore, 42% of young women are confident that generative AI will help them be more creative in their jobs, compared to 34% of young men.

The research also indicates that women feel less equipped than men to enter the workforce. 59% of young women, compared to 80% of young men believe that they have the digital skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. In addition, eight in 10 (80%) young women feel that their education has not adequately informed them about future career paths. While the concern that generative AI could necessitate new skills is common across genders, women express greater anxiety.

Commenting on the research, Dr. Michelle Cullen, Managing Director, and Inclusion & Diversity Lead at Accenture in Ireland said: “The opportunities presented by generative AI and next generation technology are limitless at an individual, professional and societal level. I’m very excited by the prospect of using the wave of technology advances to build a better future for all and bridge the digital gender gap.

“On International Women’s Day, it’s encouraging to see the interest and uptake of next gen technology amongst young women. But it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t just about technology, it’s about shaping a future where all genders stand on equal footing, harnessing the power of AI to create a more inclusive, empowered, and balanced society where no one is left behind.

“We must intensify our efforts to ensure young people, especially young women, are fully aware of the diverse career opportunities awaiting them. By collaborating to address the educational gaps and the perceived lack of opportunities they face, we have a real chance to build confidence in our future workforce and increase equality of access to the paths that lead to fulfilling careers.”

The research also assessed attitudes towards careers in STEM and showed that three in five (60%) of young women are interested in a career in a STEM field, compared to the slightly higher 66% of young men. Of young women who are interested in careers in STEM fields, 78% are interested in a career in science and technology, compared to only 20% who are interested in mathematics and engineering. Of those interested in careers in STEM, 43% say ‘educational factors’ and 35% say a ‘lack of opportunity’ would be barriers to entering those career paths.

Additional findings from the research include:

Over three in five (62%) of 18–24-year-olds are confident that they can help others develop their digital skills; now, and in the future.
73% of young women believe that the IT sector will be the most heavily impacted industry by technological advancements over the next five years, compared to just over half (51%) of young men.
A quarter (24%) of young men are interested in a career in engineering compared to only one in 10 (10%) of young women.
Just over half (54%) of young people agreed that their education has helped them develop their digital skills that they need for the workplace.
Half of young people (51%) are excited about how Gen AI will change their future career prospects.

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