Chapter 19: The gender gap in digital skills in cross-national perspective
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Many news and reports addressing the digital skills gaps between females and males apparently show an increasing equality in this area. However, this is not such a simple fact if we take a closer and nuanced look at the data. In this chapter, a theoretical integrated model is proposed to address the issue and some relevant findings are presented showing that digital skills gender gaps are not automatically reduced as ICT penetration increases nor as the new generations grow up. It may happen at the basic levels of skills, as with basic levels of access to computers or the Internet in most developed countries, but not necessarily at the higher and more specialised sets of skill. In addition, although it is possible to identify some countries where female participation levels are fairly close to those of males in certain technological areas, it must also be said that no exemplary cases have been found to obtain more balanced results in all the aspects studied here. Most countries have low percentages of females in ICT fields, and those that achieve higher proportions are not actually those with social systems that can be considered the most developed or favourable in terms of gender equality. Many things are yet needed to better understand the causal factors and the key mechanisms behind these dynamics as well as their most relevant consequences: exploring both statistical and administrative microdata in depth; adopting intersectional approaches as far as possible and applying multi-level models; using panel data when available, doing longitudinal analyses and connecting more directly what is observed earlier in life and later in adulthood. The gender gaps in digital skills are key elements of the current agendas of international institutions and still raise many challenging questions for academic research. There is still a lot to be done in this regard.

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