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Almost every aspect of how we live and work has transformed thanks to technology. The rate of change is only increasing, leaving question marks over how different our lives and workplaces will be in just five or 10 years.

Technology can bring a multitude of benefits to our lives on a day to day basis, but it also presents a threat and disproportionately so for women. The IMF projects that 11% of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination because of digital technologies – a higher percentage than for jobs held by men.

We talk a lot about the gender pay gap, but often overlook the importance of the gender skills gap. As our workplaces become increasingly digitally led, it’s therefore critical that we as women take the opportunity to enhance our digital skills to remain competitive in a more digitally led economy.

What do we mean by digitally upskilling?

When we refer to “digitally upskilling” people often assume this only applies to those in roles that are already tech led or focused, or that we’re referring to advanced concepts around things like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

While digital upskilling can indeed cover these aspects, it doesn’t always need to be that advanced and it can often benefit a whole host of job roles that aren’t directly related to tech.

Digitally upskilling in its simplest form means keeping pace with the latest technologies and applying the latest innovations and tools to optimise your role. This could include undertaking a digital marketing course to learn more about the mechanics of social media, learning to code as a product manager, or understanding how to manage big data as a HR professional.

A win win solution for women

Advances in technology such as automation and machine learning could see millions of roles replaced by technology. However, while many roles will be replaced, millions more will be created.

Training is therefore critical to enable women to capitalise on these new job prospects and future proof our careers.

Not only can training help to safeguard women’s long-term career prospects, it can lead to better remuneration too. Research from BCG–World Economic Forum research shows that 95% of workers who are at risk of being phased out by technology could be retrained for jobs that pay as much or more.

Instead of seeing technology and digitisation as a threat, we need to start seeing it as an opportunity. An opportunity to future proof our careers over the long term, move higher up the career ladder and close the gender pay gap.

Fostering flexibility

Upskilling not only offers career benefits, but personal ones too – particularly for those of us who might serve as primary caregivers to children.

Roles that are more digitally driven often have the benefit of being able to be conducted remotely. With many women having to juggle careers with parenthood, embracing a digitally led role can therefore provide you with greater flexibility, enabling you to better balance a career alongside responsibilities you may have outside of work.

Benefits for your employer

While some may use upskilling to move into a completely new career, it doesn’t have to mean a complete career rethink.

Upskilling and learning about more digitally led ways to better conduct your role can provide significant benefits to your current employer, ranging from greater efficiencies to more intelligent application of data and insights.

If you are keen to upskill but remain with your current employer, then it’s worth helping them to recognise the benefits you will bring to your role and organisation with more specialist digital skills.

Knowing where to begin is often the hardest part, so if upskilling sounds like something you could benefit from, here are some of the ways you can turn your re-training dreams into reality…

  • Explore free training courses: Code First Girls is the largest provider of free coding courses for women in the UK. They work with a number of corporate partners such as Brit to connect top employers with female tech talent, providing not only an opportunity for women to build out their digital skill set, but a chance to establish a career in this field too.
  • Explore what training your firm has on offer: Many employers across the UK recognise the critical need to digitally upskill their staff. It’s therefore worth exploring what training your employer already offers or might be willing to offer. If there isn’t anything relevant available then don’t let this deter you. Many firms are receptive to funding further training, so it could just be a case of you doing some independent research on the training options available and compiling a business case that demonstrates the extent to which the benefits of further training will far outweigh the costs.
  • Learn on the go: If a course during or after work hours seems like too much of a commitment to take on right now, then it’s worth considering more “bitesize” forms of training. There are a huge range of apps now available that enable you to learn and familiarise yourself with key digital concepts. Khan Academy can teach you computer programming, while DataCamp can teach you the principles of data science on your phone.
  • Make the most of mentors: Forging a career in a new area can feel overwhelming at times. Having a mentor can therefore be helpful, acting as a sounding board and providing you with guidance and insight along the way. Thankfully the UK is home to a hugely supportive community of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) who are keen to support other women looking to follow in their footsteps. Student To Stemette is a great programme that matches women in STEM with women and non-binary individuals up to the age of 25 hoping to establish a career in the industry.

About the author

Bilge MertBilge leads Brit’s Tech&Data teams and is responsible for leading Brit’s innovative approach to digitalisation of the specialty insurance industry. Bilge has 19 years’ experience in technology. Prior to joining Brit she worked for Swiss Re start-up and insurech iptiQ.  In addition to the insurance industry she was worked in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceuticals and consultancy, with previous roles at British American Tobacco, Mondelez and Accenture UK.