A Look at Gender-Based Learning and Development Gaps in the Workplace

  • 4 Min Read

A D2L survey has revealed differences in how men and women are exposed to employee training at their companies.

These days, making learning and development inclusive might seem like a no-brainer, but data from a recent D2L survey has revealed that not all workplace employee training experiences are created equal.

Inclusive learning offers organizations a key competitive advantage—a 2018 report from McKinsey & Company showed that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity outperform their more homogenous peers by more than 20 percent. We predict this number will only grow: as the shelf life of learned skills gets shorter, the companies which continue to thrive are those which have adaptive cultures. Diverse companies inherently hold more perspectives, helping them see around corners, predict future challenges and come up with innovative solutions. But, D2L’s survey data revealed that — when it comes to employee training — men and women aren’t being exposed to workplace learning and development opportunities in the same way.

This discrepancy may be to blame for the lack of women in leadership positions at corporate organizations. Only five percent of Fortune 500 companies, for example, are led by women. According to D2L’s survey data — gathered from 1,000 U.S. office workers — not only are women less aware of training opportunities across categories, they’re less satisfied with those that do exist. This is a problem that must be addressed if we’re to have a meaningful impact on the representation of women in leadership positions in US companies.

Let’s take a look at the survey data.

Men are more likely to hold positions of leadership.

  • Executive:
    • 15% men vs 3% women
  • Director/VP:
    • 18% men vs. 7% women

On average, 56% of men say their company offers skills training compared to 42% of women.

Men are more likely to believe that the organization they work for shares subject matter expertise across teams effectively.

  • Men: 73%
  • Women: 55%
    • Note, this metric varies broadly by generation. Boomers (54+) actually had only a little discrepancy between how men (63%) and women (56%) believe this information is shared. But Millennials (age 18-37) had a wide perception gap between men (83%) and women (55%).  

Men are more satisfied with their employer’s L&D program.

  • 75% of men are somewhat satisfied or better vs. 55% of women

Women say they have less access to a workplace L&D program.

  • 16% of women report having no access vs. 4% of men

Women also have less access to online learning platforms.

  • 64% of men have access vs. 48% of women

D2L’s survey data also revealed that men’s and women’s experiences differ when it comes to being offered access to certain types of skills training.

Technical skills  

  • 68% of men vs. 47% of women have access to this type of training
  • 23% of men vs. 37% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Adaptability/flexibility

  • 53% of men vs. 45% of women have access to this type of training
  • 34% of men vs. 34% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Creativity, logic, and problem-solving

  • 53% of men vs. 40% of women have access to this type of training
  • 38% of men vs. 41% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Interpersonal/emotional intelligence  

  • 54% of men vs. 40% of women have access to this type of training
  • 36% of men vs. 39% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Analysis, judgment, and decision-making

  • 54% of men vs. 43% of women have access to this type of training
  • 35% of men vs. 39% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Resource management  

  • 53% of men vs. 40% of women have access to this type of training
  • 36% of men and 40% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Written and oral communication

  • 56% of men vs. 40% of women have access to this type of training
  • 31% of men and 39% of women don’t have access but wish they did

Less access to learning and development opportunities for women lies at the heart of the issue. The problem is digitally driven, but the solutions can be too. Indeed, how to reduce the digital gender divide was a key topic explored by delegates and thought leaders (including D2L) at the recent G(irls) 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, worldwide, there is a digital gender gap of 12 percent, a number that jumps to almost 31 percent in the least developed countries.

As we enter into a new era of work, post-school training, which is increasingly digitally-driven, it is more vital than ever to allow people to continue growing into the jobs that exist and future proofing for the ones that will take over in years to come. This means that equal access to on-the-job skills training and workplace learning and development are critical. Companies serious about diversity (especially in leadership) need to make sure men and women are receiving equal opportunities. As the data shows, this isn’t happening.

To reduce these gaps and increase access to learning and development opportunities for women in the workplace, companies should look to better implement digitally-enabled training that specifically helps women in leadership, gives them access to relevant skills training, and offers them better mentors, coaches, and advocates within their organizations.

The online survey was completed by 1,000 office workers in the U.S in February 2018.

Check out our webinar series on how to tackle women’s unique needs in the workplace.