Mariana Costa Checa was honored with her own Barbie. Is this one of the top highlights of this Peruvian entrepreneur’s life? I don’t think so, but it’s certainly interesting for a woman who dedicated her life to improving digital skills for women in Latin America and the Caribbean. She says it herself in a note: “It was really an honor that Barbie’s company wanted to include me on the list. But Barbie? I spent a few days thinking. As a child, I never played too much with them.” This Peruvian entrepreneur added that she was never captivated by the famous doll. But the intention of the company producing these famous dolls was good: to have a special series dedicated to inspiring young people all over the world, based on real women who have helped improve humanity.
What stands out in Mariana’s life is her passion and dedication to improving the lives of young women in Latin America and the Caribbean through immersion in the digital world. She has founded a truly inspiring project: Laboratoria. Through this project, thousands of young people from across the region have been trained in 21st-century skills. Such skills enable them to get jobs that, without the program, would have been an impossible dream to fulfill. She detected both an opportunity and a problem. The opportunity: the increasing demand for employment in the digital world. The problem: there is a pool of female untapped talent, which does not yet have enough tools to navigate and successfully participate in an increasingly digitized labor market.
Today, digital skills are critical to a positive career path. The demand for digital skills continues to expand in the job market. To stay ahead of changes in the labor market and advance your career, you need to acquire the right digital skills. Although the demand for higher education has increased, there are many opportunities for people to acquire skills through different learning paths than those provided by higher education institutions. These include MOOCs, bootcamps, and short courses. There is a training ecosystem that provides specific skills and competencies. In a recent article, Beth Cobert (former Chief Performance Officer of the U.S. Government) says it clearly: “The first thing employers should do is to really think about the skills that are relevant for jobs. They should look for skills, not credentials.” And the most in-demand skills are digital skills. Therefore, the digital skills open doors. Job transitions will be more frequent, and our world will not be a credential-driven world, but a skills-driven one.
Women are initially at a disadvantage in terms of digital skills. According to a report by the GSMA, “lack of digital skills are the biggest barriers to digital inclusion” in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is particularly true for certain population groups, including women, are particularly faced with these challenges. Women face an additional challenge: access to digital technology.
The future of work is changing rapidly, and it accelerated due to the pandemic generated by COVID-19. The use and adoption of technology has expanded, and this has only accelerated the demand for digital skills. Women need to keep moving forward on the path of acquiring the skills and competencies to meet this demand.
Today, we are at a turning point. We have a historic opportunity to close existing gender gaps in the labor market. To do this, it is important to change the dynamics of access to and promotion of female talent. Digital skills can open the doors to that change.