New survey suggests a gender gap in workplace training

Written on Jan 15, 2019

New survey results suggest there is a gender gap in training in the workplace. The survey found that 64% of men said they have access to online learning platforms whereas just 48% of women said they did.

The survey, Awareness & Accessibility: Training Gaps in the Workplace, was conducted by online learning company D2L and surveyed 1,000 third-party U.S. office workers. The company wanted to better understand how learning and development experiences in the workplace vary by gender, according to the D2L press release.

But D2L Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Ainoa believes it’s not necessarily that women aren’t being provided with learning platforms by their organizations. “In my opinion, it isn’t the case that less is available to women,” Ainoa said in a statement. “It’s an awareness issue because they’re not thinking it pertains to them or they’re not resonating when it gets sent out broadly. They’re assuming, ‘If it’s something my manager would support me doing, he or she would be having a conversation.’”

Ilona Kalantarova, a consultant at strategy implementation firm BTS, agreed.

“Men are more likely to take a risk and sign up for something even though they may not have the full confidence,” Kalantarova said. “Whereas women must feel 100% confident in achieving something before they take what could be perceived as a risk, which could hold them back.”

According to BTS, only 24 Fortune 500 CEOs are women. To help companies address the underrepresentation of women in the C-suite, BTS launched the Accelerating Women Executives program.

The program provides women with a six-month “leadership journey,” consisting of an assessment of their strengths and opportunities, executive coaching and sponsorship. Kalantarova believes the most important aspect to succeeding in an executive position is having a financial understanding, so the core of the experience is “improving the business and financial acumen.”

Even if there is a gender gap, why should companies pay more attention to these results?

“Research shows that companies that have more women leadership have 53% higher return on equity, 42% higher return on sales and 42% higher return on their invested capital,” Kalantarova said. “Those are figures that would make any CEO or CFO make a call to action.”

Ainoa believes the responsibility falls on the managers to make sure they are proactively reaching out to their employees, instead of just relying on a mass email, for example.

“I really believe leaders should be sitting down with people at least twice a year and saying, ‘Here are the skills that everybody should be working on, what’s the next one or two you should be developing and what are the ways to develop those skills?’” Ainoa said. “But if leaders are just sitting back and saying they are going to wait until somebody asks them if they can take a class, by definition that’s going to appeal to men more than women and just perpetuate that cycle.”

Ainoa said it’s not just the managers that need to be proactive, but the employees as well.

“Every employee should be working on developing one to three skills at any point in time,” she said. “You will not remain relevant over time if you don’t.”

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