Why Education is the Best Tool to Break the Bias and Bridge the Gap

“I raise up my voice — not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

These words by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai remind us that the only way any country can prosper is by providing its people with equal opportunities, regardless of their gender. Women account for 47.7% of the global workforce. However, a whopping 42% claim to be discriminated against at work because of their gender. This is only one such example of the bias. It is time for us to take a step back and introspect. What have we done so far to reduce stereotypes, discrimination, and bias?

At Emeritus, we use the strongest tool at our disposal to raise awareness against bias: education. We firmly believe in its ability to level the playing field and open up opportunities for anyone. And with the online model, we believe anyone, anywhere can upskill in any field. We stand firmly with our mission to make “high-quality education accessible and affordable”. Let’s take a look at the challenge ahead of us as a society.

The Challenge

According to findings by UN Women, more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people are women. It has also been observed that for girls who live in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, completing primary school is a problem (Making education a Priority in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: report of the Global Thematic Consultation on education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda).

The obstacles that they face are not just limited to education. When it comes to women and the workforce, a report states that compared to men, women earn less than 16% in hourly wages and less than 22% in monthly wages.

Impact of Education on the Lives of Women

Here are the many ways in which education can help break the bias today:

1. Acquiring Skills for Job Opportunities

The first discernible impact is that it helps impart knowledge and develop skills. This subsequently leads them to employment opportunities. With employment opportunities come financial independence, which is the biggest ticket to autonomy – about your finances, body, marital status, and more. It gives you a voice, which can empower you to change your life.

However, what stands in the way of this is that education has not been easily accessible to everyone. But with the growth of technology, education too has become easily available, with the click of a button; much like everything else.

There are a wide variety of online learning platforms that provide courses like social media marketing, graphic designing, programming and more. These courses are designed in such a way that they keep up with the growing demands of the labor market. Moreover, these courses allow women to develop their skills, making it easier for them to find jobs. Emeritus is one such online learning platform. Some of the courses we offer include data science & analytics, coding, sales & marketing

In 2021, we had a total of 22590 women signing up for various programs. In 2022, so far, there have been 4991 learners signing up. And we only hope that by the end of this year, our programs bring in more learners across the board.

The pandemic too has affected women in a lot of ways. The changing labor market, pressures of maintaining a balance between work and household responsibilities have pushed women to leave their jobs. However, online programs help make education more accessible to women.

2. Educating Women, Empowering Change

Drew Gilpin Faust who was the 28th and also the first woman president of Harvard University, said, “We educate women because it changes the world”. This holds an abundance of truth. When a woman is educated, she has the potential of bringing about change in her life and that of others around her.

Adversity gives birth to women like Malala Yousafzai, education empowers them. Educating girls and women, and promoting the same will aid in an increase in a country’s growth and development. According to a study by UNESCO, a country’s gross domestic product increases by an average of 3% when 10% more girls in the country attend school. Educating women encourages them to participate, giving them a voice to fight for the injustices done to them and others

3. Women in the Workforce

Be it the opportunities or the pay, women continue to face discrimination in various forms at the workplace.

Highlighting the position of women in the workplace, a UN Women report states that women all over the world are underrepresented in high-profile jobs, that obviously tend to be better paid. Across the world, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn (United Nations Statistics Division). Some of the reasons why this gap continues to exist are occupational segregation, education, and the difference in work experience. 

While the number of women in leadership has increased in the last few years, the pay gap is still a concern. “One-in-four employed women said that they earned less than a man who was doing the same job; just 5% of men said they had earned less than a woman doing the same job” (Pew Research Center). This pay gap widens with other factors like age, disabilities and ethnicities in the mix.

While this is an ongoing struggle, one that requires mindset changes, one of the things that can certainly fix this is upskilling and reskilling women employees.

Next promotion is a course awayWhy Upskilling and Reskilling are Important for Women

Upskilling and reskilling facilitate the agility that’s essential for the post-pandemic world – and this applies to the entire workforce. It is also said that the reskilling imperative will make it possible to bring significant change in the ongoing struggle for gender diversity at the workplace.

Ultimately, it is in the hands of the leaders and employers to welcome gender diversity at the workplace. Presently, numerous leaders are reluctant to offer higher positions to women employees. This may be because they tend to avail extended maternity leave, take a long break from work, or miss out on pursuing higher education due to unavoidable, most often familial reasons – all points that do not apply to men. 

Approximately 61% of women think motherhood disrupts their progress opportunities. This applies to both women in leadership roles and employees. Hence, it comes as no surprise that only 27.1% of women are managers and leaders today.

Despite the unfair treatment, a daring 37% of women negotiate for promotions, as opposed to 36% of men. With the right education and resources, more women can build the confidence to seize opportunities, raise their voices and restart their careers.

The Way Forward

The IMF projects that 11% of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination as a result of digital technologies—a higher percentage than for jobs held by men” (How Reskilling Can Transform the Future for Women, BCG). If companies and leaders work towards creating reskilling programs for women in niche areas like digital technologies, they will be encouraged and motivated to make a come-back into the professional world. Leaders should simultaneously take up measures to upskill their most valuable female employees, so that they remain up-to-date with various skills that they would ultimately require to become leaders in this new digital era

One way forward is for women to join clubs that offer a variety of exclusive advantages to their members. One such club is Women’s Funding Network, which is an enormous network of women who provide everything from networking, to funding opportunities, workshops, grants, and events.

In the words of Megan Smith, Former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, “The more people we can attract to science and technology – men, women, everybody – the more economic opportunity we have as a nation.” Smith mirrors our motto this Women’s Day: Education empowers not only women, but people of all genders and identities. It is about time that we promote a world in which everyone walks side-by-side and as equals. Education can help #BreakTheBias. 

Emeritus’ CEO, LATAM, Andrea Mansano also adds, “In today’s world there is no profession only for men. There is an incorrect assumption that women cannot do certain jobs, but time and again we have proven this wrong! As a woman, it is my duty to guide, support, mentor and provide opportunities to women in need. And I am proud to be able to do that! If you want to learn something today, nothing can stop us. We must go for it!”

Additionally, Emeritus offers a wide range of courses to learn and acquire skills that will help professionals grow, #BreakTheBias and seize opportunities. Just remember, #TheFutureIsYours!

For feedback or content collaborations, write to content@emeritus.org

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