Book Chapter

Tracking global gender gaps in information technology using online data

Verkroost, F. C. J., Kashyap, R., Garimella, K., Weber, I. G., Zagheni, E.
In: McDonald, M. (Ed.): Digital Skills Insights 2020, 81–93
Geneva, Switzerland, International Telecommunication Union (2020)


Despite the proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs), significant gender inequalities in the use of these technologies persist (Fatehkia et al., 2018). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU, 2017) estimates that around 200 million fewer women are online than men. While gender gaps disfavouring women in Internet access and basic digital skills can be sizeable especially in less developed countries, gender gaps in high-level digital skills, such as those required to work in jobs in the information and technology (IT) sector, are thought to be even larger in most countries (Borgonovi, 2018). For example, a recent report showed that only 16 per cent of the talent in artificial intelligence, an area of significant projected growth in the IT sector, is female (Roca, 2019). These gender gaps are especially important to measure and understand in the context of increasing digitisation of labour markets, and to ensure the continued economic empowerment of women as envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality (Davaki, 2018). Furthermore, with the increasing diversification and specialisation of jobs in the IT sector, it is important to understand the variation in gender gaps across different subdomains within the sector.
This article contributes to understanding global variations in gender gaps in IT industries by drawing on a novel source of online data – specifically, aggregate, anonymous data from the advertising platform of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking website. LinkedIn provides an advertising platform called the LinkedIn Campaign Manager, which can be used to create and manage advertisements. Potential advertisers can specify their desired audience by providing targeting criteria, such as gender, geography (e.g. country, city) and job industry. Based on these features, and before an advertisement is launched, LinkedIn provides an estimate of how many female and male LinkedIn users work in a particular industry per country, giving us an estimate of the supply of these industries.1 By leveraging these aggregate data on the number of LinkedIn users, we examine the variation across countries in supply side gender gaps in different subdomains of the IT sector (e.g. computer hardware or software, computer and network security etc. as defined by the LinkedIn Campaign Manager).

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.