The Covid-19 digital revolution brought both risks and opportunities for women

Women’s use of digital tools increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic and has been a life saver for many women during this period. But this digital progress hasn’t been without a cost. The boundary between work and home life, for example, has become increasingly blurred. Even so, women see clear opportunities in digital technology – to learn new skills, socialize and make their lives easier. 

‘Lifeline: Risks & opportunities for women from Covid-19 digital Revolution’ is the latest in a series of reports into the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on women. AXA’s previous two surveys examined the economic and health effects of the crisis . This time, we zoom in on women’s increased use of digital technology, and on how digital is now reaching into almost all aspects of women’s day-to-day lives. For this report, AXA surveyed 8,000 women from different social and economic backgrounds in eight countries: France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand and the UK. 

As AXA believe women are the key to progress and they’re a vital force around the world for growth and development, let’s have a look at the key findings of the survey.

Digital has provided a lifeline for many women during the pandemic

Overall, most women in the survey agreed that digital technology helped them escape the worst effects of lockdown. During the pandemic, more women used digital means to maintain contact with friends and relatives, to manage their health and financial affairs, as well as to shop and oversee their children’s schooling. 

During the pandemic, 86% of women used digital means to work remotely – 10% used it for the first time. There’s also been a sharp increase in online learning as women use digital tools to acquire new skills and capabilities. Since the start of the pandemic, 30% of women say they’ve participated in online training or skills development for the first time. In all, 86% now take tutorials and courses online.
Among women, digital use in some areas now exceeds 90%, which makes it more likely that women will stay online even when the pandemic is over.

However, digital has also brought new worries

Women appreciate the flexibility that homeworking offers, particularly when it comes to child-minding. But the rise of digital solutions brings its own risks. According to our survey, nearly three-quarters of women (73%) are finding it hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance. That’s partly because, during lockdowns, the burden of housework and childcare has fallen disproportionately to women, as became clear from our previous reports. 

Women see other risks, too, from the increased use of digital tools: 41% said they fear losing their jobs because of increased automation, a trend accelerated by the current pandemic. More than half (51%) pointed to the potential loss of privacy. Younger women in particular cited online abuse as a growing concern. In our survey, 35% named “online harassment” as a risk. Not surprisingly, many women are turning to activism – often via social media – as a way to make their voices heard.  

The digital gender gap is still a reality for many women

When it comes to digital solutions, many women still feel at a disadvantage compared to men. According to the survey, 42% of women feel they face additional barriers when applying for online financing – critical if women are to develop successful new businesses. It’s not just financing: 58% of women worry they have less access than men to technical or scientific careers that require advanced digital skills.

In all, young women (between 18 and 29 years of age) seem more aware of the “digital gender divide” in everything from careers to digital skills, access to online finance and creating their own digital business.

Post-pandemic, women see digital as a clear opportunity

As we emerge from the pandemic, women increasingly see digital tools as an opportunity. It’s a way of learning new skills and balancing tricky work and family commitments. According to our survey, the number one opportunity for women is access to “more online learning.” More women are also going online to set up side-businesses, potentially creating a new generation of female entrepreneurs. 

At the same time, there’s increased interest among women in online financial products. For working women, digital tools also offer increased flexibility – vital at a time when many are having to juggle work and home commitments.

How to strengthen digital inclusion among women

  • Develop accessible online products and services, e.g. a 24/7 teleconsultation with healthcare professionals.
  • Introduce “one-click” concierge services, for e.g. child or elderly care.
  • Offer more online training to build women’s skills and confidence, thereby closing the digital gap with men.
  • Work together with women entrepreneurs, e.g. providing advice to help them finance and protect their businesses.
  • Develop specific products to protect women working as freelancers or small business owners, e.g. formal protection for their health and finances.
  • Make support available to women from all social and economic backgrounds so all can join the online technology boom.

At AXA Partners, we believe women are the key to progress; they’re a vital force around the world for growth and development. We are committed to ensuring that women have easy access to online services and digital protection solutions for themselves and their families – and can realize their full economic potential. 

Lifeline: Risks and opportunities for women from the Covid-19 digital revolution

Read the full survey report

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