New report: does digital transformation affect gender inequalities?

“Redefining digital bioeconomy” is a new report reviewing how the digital transformation affects gender inequalities in the Nordic bioeconomy.

The bioeconomy is largely male dominated. Moving towards a digital bioeconomy, the sector is married with the even more heavily male dominated tech industry. This imposes the question of how the gender balance in the sector will be affected as the digital transformation permeates the bioeconomy. The newly published report “Redefining digital bioeconomy” sets out to answer this question by reviewing existing literature on the topic.

While there are plenty of research within the areas of bioeconomy, digitalisation and gender, literature combining all three areas is sparse. This literature review therefore studies the three areas in pairs (gender–bioeconomy/ digitalisation–bioeconomy/gender–digitalisation), with the aim of identifying and presenting the most frequent themes within these pairs. The findings show that:

1) The gender–bioeconomy literature focuses on understanding how the bioeconomy became a field with masculine connotations, symbolically as well as in practice;

2) Within the digitalisation–bioeconomy literature, the most prominent discussions include the use of data analytics, social sustainability, and challenges in adapting to the technologies;

3) The literature on gender–digitalisation raises stereotypes and the masculine construction of technology, education and labour market issues as well as gender equality.

By looking at the intersection of the three areas, analysing the commonalities in the identified themes, two major conclusions are drawn. Firstly, the momentum of the shift in workforce demand both in the bioeconomy and technology sectors could be used to actively redefine the stereotypical bioeconomy worker. Secondly, the need for female leadership, mentors and networks is widely emphasised as key to attract more women to the sectors.

With this as a backdrop, the report suggests and problematises five action points moving forward:

  • Increasing the number of female role models
  • Mentorship programs
  • Networks for young professionals and students
  • Further research in the intersection of digitalisation, bioeconomy, and gender
  • Tools and methods to incorporate this topic in bioeconomy-related education

The review constitutes the first step in the Bioequality project and will serve as a foundation for informed discussions and decisions for action. The project is funded by three organisations linked to the Nordic Council of Ministers, SNS, NKJ and NIKK, and runs until December 2021.