The race towards gender parity hit a depressing low.
The World Economic Forum's (WEF) latest Global Gender Gap Report 2016 estimates that we won't achieve this milestone until the year 2186! The same report in 2014 estimated parity by 2095.
Think about that for a minute. In just two years the forecast for global gender parity has been pushed back 91 years. It is now 170 years away.
It sounds crazy, but by the time we reach that milestone, future politicians will be campaigning to our grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren about their expectations for the 23rd century.
This is more than just a setback – it also comes at a bad time. The report is especially disheartening at this point in history where we are seeing massive changes as a result of the disruptive forces of technology. Having women participating in all aspects of society and contributing to decision-making as peers is not just nice to have; instead, it is essential to tackling the 21st century challenges we face.
The Global Gender Gap Report provides annual benchmarks of progress toward parity between men and women in four areas: educational attainment; health and survival; economic opportunity; and political empowerment. In this latest edition, WEF states that progress toward parity in the economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 41% globally – now larger than at any point since 2008.
Of course, results vary across the world. The Nordic countries consistently lead as the most gender equal countries, while the United States now sits at number 45 in the country rankings, having dropped 17 places since last year. The report states:
The report speaks for itself and provides great detail on each country's position. While results vary for each country, I believe there are also some prevailing moods around the world that add to the overall narrative:
Our people are everywhere in the world. While part of EY, they also go home to their families and friends and they are active in their local communities. I have seen the profound effect a multinational workplace can have in building communities, engaging people in finding out about each other and fostering positive attitudes toward people who come from backgrounds different to one’s own. Women. Fast forward builds on this experience and aims to accelerate the pace of achieving gender parity and diversity in our workplaces, and also in our wider societies.
Despite yesterday's news and prevailing attitudes, I see encouraging signs that show the trend can be reversed at EY, similar organizations and select parts of the world. One such recent example came from Australia where nearly half of the top 200 listed companies appointed women to their executive boards for the first time ever this year. More countries in the G20 in the last year have elected women to leadership positions and are advancing women in the civil service every day. And here at EY we continue to make strides promoting women into our partnership every year.
Sometimes it is the seemingly small changes that make the biggest difference – encouraging girls into STEM, supporting a young woman’s career choice, actively promoting women into leadership roles, supporting women entrepreneurs, creating opportunities to start businesses – and most importantly, recognizing every day that talent and capability come in many forms and do not always look, sound or act the same. Embracing diversity of all kinds is nothing if not an asset to any organization and society. Let's work together to accelerate gender parity within our lifetime – and make sure the numbers never go backward again.
The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.
A version of this article also appeared in The Huffington Post.
By solving long-standing problems, can cutting-edge technology also create ethical issues in its wake? Can these issues spurred by technology be preempted during the research and development stages? How can businesses and individuals forecast the next problem? These (and other) questions were triggered and explored by start-ups and large corporates at EY’s Journey 2016 – Israel’s most prestigious annual business conference.
I was one of more than 2,000 people who attended the conference in Tel Aviv last month. For the past 20 years, Journey has connected Israeli innovators and entrepreneurs with global corporate executives, business advisers, investors and opinion leaders to seek out the hottest industry trends and share the latest ideas
The conference halls buzzed with app developers, technologists, executives and other enthusiasts who wrestled with some very big topics, such as:
Israel – Start-Up Nation
Israel is a unique place. As the only independent Jewish state in the world, its roots stretch back millennia, yet the modern Israeli state is a comparatively new invention. Founded in 1948, it is essentially a start-up nation. Israel embraces the risk that comes with innovation and entrepreneurship. It has become a vibrant hub for technology innovation, defined by perseverance and a willingness to try again when something does not work the first time.
While I was in Tel Aviv, Shimon Peres, the former President of Israel, passed away. Widely admired, Peres’ lasting legacy will be that of a leader with foresight. In one of his last public letters, which was quoted at Journey, Peres seemingly understood what we face on the horizon: “Science which develops without a moral spine may destroy the world. On the other hand, morality which prevents science from developing may starve the world.”
As we now routinely consider the impact of new technologies – on business, labor markets and our lives more broadly – we are in urgent need of a wider debate on technoethics – that is the moral and ethical issues associated with technology.
Emer Coleman, a colleague and Chair of the Open Data Governance Board in Ireland, recently underscored this urgency at a talk in Dublin.
Coleman pointed out that search engines, which are not constrained by ethical frameworks, already know a huge amount about us through our email content, demographic backgrounds, geographic presence, and lifestyle interests. As a result, software developers are positioned to reinforce but also engineer our social behaviors through our search habits. The big question for technologists, concluded Coleman, is: “We can do this, but should we?”
Businesses and government need to grapple with the ethics of technology. Through all of this discussion, several immediate takeaways come to mind:
The downside risk.
Technology can usher in unintended consequences, some of which may not be apparent upfront. A technology platform is implemented individually, but its cumulative effects are important – the whole is more than the sum of its parts. For example – automated technologies are substituting humans with machines, and to date the associated job loss is substantially outweighing the creation of new jobs. So while this might enhance efficiency and profitability for businesses, a cumulative effect could be large scale social displacement. An unintended consequence like this is problematic and needs to be considered in the development stages.
I love my gadgets. But we should question whether some technologies actually make the world work better and in other cases are they negatively impacting peoples' ability to connect with each other both publicly and privately? Seems to me they do both, sometimes driving more connection rather than less. However, a 2015 Pew Research Center study found that 82 percent of adults felt the way they used their phones socially hurt their dialogues; and a 2010 University of Michigan study found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.
The digital divide is entering an era of new sophistication, in which it is not just access to technologies that is at issue, but also the extent of both operational and strategic digital literacy required. Individuals may know how to operate their smartphones and personal home assistants, but how many of us can plan the technological configuration to get our maximal advantage in our lives? Similarly, we know that health literacy is low even in our most mature societies. Yet health and biotechnical advances are staggering and unprecedented, particularly in areas such as neuroscience and genetics. Health is getting better at obtaining informed consent for administrative processes – the small things – but how are the major choices about which technologies are ethical, under which circumstances, being made?
In light of these takeaways, Coleman raises several questions worth thinking about:
It is clear that as technology moves on, we get used to it and we willingly give up some of our privacy in exchange for convenience. It is equally clear, however, that we do not understand all the consequences that come with ubiquitous technology. The smartphone epitomizes this divide and undoubtedly there will be other future technologies we will be hard pressed to live without.
That’s why it’s so important that we heed President Peres’ advice and examine ethical issues now to ensure that science and technology do indeed develop with a moral spine.
Imagine – just a decade ago if someone had told you that one day soon all your movements would be recorded by a small device in your pocket with accessible readouts of your whereabouts and other personal data. At the time this possibility surely would’ve seemed more threatening than liberating. But of course we now accept this as a price to pay for having a smartphone as this technology continues to pave new ways for us. Now this same quandary is being applied to arguably what has long been viewed as a modern symbol of personal freedom – the automobile.
Over the last few months alone – all eyes have quickly turned to the brave new world of how we will next interact with our vehicles. We’ve read about and debated questions on – the safety of nascent self-driving technology, Silicon Valley’s entry into driverless technology, Uber trialing autonomous technologies with major automakers, implications for insurance companies and of course, the issue of privacy.
And just this week - US federal automobile safety regulators came out and judged that America's highways will be safer when cars are driven by machines, not by people. President Barack Obama has endorsed this view by rolling out a fifteen point plan that will pave the way for new rules and guidance that automakers should follow when developing self-driving cars to keep passengers safe. While the guidance stops short of being official regulation and policy - the key points of the plan address areas like safety, technology and privacy. All of these events point to how we have rapidly moved the conversation around the automobile from the possibility to the inevitability of driverless cars and automated technologies.
A few weeks ago while I was in Japan – a country already familiar with advanced robotics in everyday areas like restaurants and recreational golf courses – I was reminded of two imminent realities that I will likely face around the world. For one, I might soon be hard-pressed to find a traditional cab when I leave the office. And when I hail a car from a ridesharing app, there is likely to be no driver.
My friends and I will be the only people sitting in the car as it makes its journey to our next destination. Indeed, the sweeping changes unleashed onto traditional taxi businesses have already rocked an entire industry from London to Singapore. Even the innovative business models of ride-sharing apps that now dominate the landscape will soon be disrupted by newer forms of transport. But these two developments are no longer newsworthy. Innovation can happen so quickly that whole industries can be blindsided and redefined without warning. How industries prepare themselves and respond to disruption is the real story here.
Don Butler at The Ford Motor Company recently said that the value in cars today is shifting from being 90% hardware-based to being more than 50% software and experience-based – with that percentage set to keep climbing. Already the cars we drive are becoming a rolling software platform able or soon able to deliver services built on cloud-based data collection, robotics, sensors and artificial intelligence (AI).
This shift in focus is opening the door for technology companies to compete directly with carmakers. Tech companies like Alphabet, are aggressively developing fully self-driving vehicles of their own. This incoming competition is changing the way we imagine the next generation of vehicles and other products we consume. No doubt, some of this new technology will spill over into other industries like the consumer products and media and entertainment sectors that are relying more heavily on personal data collection.
And as more vehicles become self-driving and have the technology to connect with other cars, infrastructure and smartphones – we could very well see the transportation industry converge with the technology, logistics, energy and other industries into a broader mobility industry.
This new sector would likely attract new competitors and success will go to those who offer the best capabilities for the redefined marketplace. This is what EY calls ‘Industry Redefined’ in its latest report: The upside of disruption: Megatrends shaping 2016 and beyond. This future undeniably poses many challenges for traditional automakers – and how they introduce this new technology into their existing business models will have long-lasting effects.We’ve seen many incumbent organizations in other industries lack the digital savvy at the leadership level to react and effectively disrupt their long-held practices when challenged by new technologies and competitors. The news media is a prime example of this and it is seemingly always tackling questions around its longevity.
Arguably, tech companies may hold the initial advantage in this race as the increasing demand for software content in cars attract firms that excel at code, algorithms and AI to enter this new competitive space. Tech companies are also the leaders in connectivity, logistics and other areas critical to autonomous vehicles and connected-driver experiences – like smartphones, interactive maps, cloud-based data and more. While automakers face high hurdles in recruiting and retaining talent in advanced technologies, they’re also saddled with legacy costs in real estate, IT infrastructure, supply chains, and other hard assets. Simply put, they have a lot of catching-up to do.