Top 10 Skills for Women in the Workplace

Written by Coursera • Updated on

These are the most in-demand skills for women seeking to elevate their careers.

[Featured image] Red text on a white background that reads "Women's History Month" with a photo of a woman speaking to her team in a conference room.

In 1920, women made up about 20 percent of the labor force. During World War II and the 1960s feminist movement, women began to enter the workforce in great numbers to support their families [1]. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic brought more changes to the workforce landscape, and it disproportionately impacted women. Some 13 million fewer women were employed in 2021 than in 2019, according to the International Labor Organization. The number of employed men remained about the same [2]. 

However, the future looks promising for women, thanks in part to increasing opportunities for women to acquire new digital job skills online. At Coursera, global enrollments for female learners increased from 38 percent to 45 percent between 2018-19 and 2020 [3].

Coursera recently published the first-ever Women and Skills Report, which examines how the pandemic has impacted skills trends among women and how women are using online learning to prepare for the future. The 10 skills in this article had the most enrollments by female-identifying learners on Coursera between July 2020 and June 2021, indicating that these are the skills that women all around the world consider to be important for their own career and personal growth [4].

1. Communication

It is no secret that communication skills are among the most important for anyone, anywhere. Communication is the act of transferring information, ideas, and data from one group to another. Typically, communication involves talking, writing, listening, or reading, combined with more subtle variations, like reading body language and empathy.

In the workplace, these skills are a must to succeed in communications roles, but they are also necessary for building relationships with managers, colleagues, and customers across a range of industries.

Enhance your communication skills:

2. Leadership and management

Great leaders execute a collective vision and motivate individuals to put forth their best efforts for the benefit of the company, organization, or team. They manage conflict and make decisions on a daily basis. Excellent managers come with all types of personalities, backgrounds, and leadership styles. Leading with influence, rather than authority, is an important practical skill to learn.

Globally, women hold only 24 percent of senior leadership positions. There is plenty of opportunity to improve these numbers to equalize women in the workforce and bring their unique talents to the forefront.

Improve your leadership and management skills:

3. Probability and statistics

Probability is the determination of how likely an event will occur, or how likely something is true, while statistics involves the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data to solve problems. Both are important in careers that involve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Women have been systematically limited from STEM throughout their education, due to factors like gender stereotyping, fewer role models in popular culture, and math anxiety passed on by female teachers, according to the American Association of University Women. Women comprise only 28 percent of the labor force in STEM, creating a gender gap in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs, such as computer science and engineering [5]. Fortunately, things are changing; at Coursera, enrollment in STEM courses grew from 31 percent in 2018-2019 to 38 percent in 2020 [3].

Start building your probability and statistics skills today: 

4. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is the act of creating value, usually by developing an idea into a successful business that provides a valuable service or product. As an entrepreneur, you take financial risks in hope of generating profit. To do this, you need to know how to design, organize, and manage new enterprises through the stages of launch, growth, financing, and profitability.

Women-owned businesses made up only 20.9 percent of the total in the United States in 2018, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey [6]. That number is higher according to a report by American Express, which cites nearly 13 million women-owned businesses, representing 42 percent of all US companies [7]. Either way, there is ample opportunity and need for female entrepreneurs.

Learn entrepreneurial skills to launch your business:

5. Computer programming

Computer programming skills are in high demand as work becomes increasingly automated. Programmers write code that instructs how computers, apps, and software programs perform. It involves analyzing, generating, and implementing algorithms. 

Like many other STEM careers, in recent history, women have been discouraged from this type of work. Women hold only 20 percent of computer science roles. On the plus side, the field has one of the smallest pay gaps, with women earning 94 percent of what men earn. Now, more than ever, women are pursuing computer programming skills to enhance their careers.

Level up your computer programming skills:

6. Business psychology

Business psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology, combines human psychology with practical business application to improve productivity, work environment, and organization. Learning business psychology is beneficial in developing strong networks and relationships that can help you get jobs and build harmonious teams and communities. These skills are important in nearly every facet of society, including businesses, start-ups, hospitals, non-profits, and governments.

Teams that are gender-diverse are 21 percent more likely to generate profit and 27 percent more likely to deliver superior value [8]. That means female business leaders are critical to success in any sector and industry.

Boost your business psychology skills:

7. Business analysis

Business analysis is a way of identifying business needs and solutions. That might include organizational changes, strategic planning, policy development, and improvements to processes, systems, and tools.

Business analysts play an integral role in making data-driven decisions based on research and strategic thinking. You will need to present your findings and recommendations to management and other key stakeholders in roles that require business analysis.

Sharpen your business analysis with:

8. Data analysis

Data analysis involves gathering, cleaning, analyzing, visualizing, and presenting data to inform business decisions. As a data analyst, you leverage data to solve problems and help stakeholders navigate the best plan of action.

Big data is shaping the future economy, and as such, individual human experiences. It is important that women are represented. Today, approximately 15 percent of data scientists are women, so there is a huge gender gap to fill. Learning data analysis can lead to a high-demand, high-impact career.

Dive into data analysis:

9. Machine learning

Machine learning is the study and creation of computer algorithms that improve through experience and data usage. Considered part of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning comprises skills like programming and analysis that help companies like Spotify and Netflix determine your music and movie preferences over time to offer personalized recommendations.

The field of AI, which encompasses both machine and deep learning, is completely reshaping society—but women only hold 26 percent of data and AI positions, according to the World Economic Forum [9]. There is a huge opportunity for women to thrive in this emerging and in-demand industry.

Get familiar with machine learning:

10. Marketing

Marketing involves research, analysis, and using psychology to understand your customer to get them interested in your product, service, or brand. Marketing can include modern methods such, as influencer marketing, social media, digital marketing, and search engine optimization, as well as traditional methods like print media advertising, billboards, and television commercials. 

Women account for up to 85 percent of purchasing decisions nationwide, according to a study by Deloitte, which suggests companies (and their revenues) benefit from including female perspectives on their teams [10].

Elevate your marketing skills:

Learn from inspiring women

What skill will you learn next to elevate your career? Whether you're passionate about data science, product management, marketing, or artificial intelligence, learn from inspiring women who are experts in their fields with this collection of courses from top universities on Coursera. Enjoy unlimited access to these and more than 7,000 other courses, guided projects, and Professional Certificates for one subscription price with Coursera Plus. Get started with a seven-day free trial.

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Article Sources

1. United States Department of Labor Women's Bureau. “History, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/wb/about/history." Accessed January 18, 2022.

2. International Labour Organization. "Building Forward Fairer: Women’s Rights to Work and at Work at the Core of the COVID-19 Recovery, https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---gender/documents/publication/wcms_814499.pdf." Accessed January 18, 2022.

3.  Coursera. "Global Skills Report 2021, https://www.coursera.org/skills-reports/global." Accessed January 18, 2022.

4. Coursera. "Women and Skills Report 2021,  https://blog.coursera.org/coursera-women-and-skills-report-2021/." Accessed January 18, 2022.

5. AAUW. “The Stem Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,  https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/." Accessed January 18, 2022

6. US Census Bureau. “Census Bureau Releases New Data on Minority-Owned, Veteran-Owned and Women-Owned Businesses.  https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2021/characteristics-of-employer-businesses.html." Accessed January 18, 2022.

7. American Express. "The 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report,  https://s1.q4cdn.com/692158879/files/doc_library/file/2019-state-of-women-owned-businesses-report.pdf." Accessed January 18, 2022.

8. McKinsey. “Delivering through Diversity Full Report, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/organization/our%20insights/delivering%20through%20diversity/delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx.”  Accessed January 19, 2022.

9. World Economic Forum. “5 Ways to Get More Women Working in AI,  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/08/5-ways-increase-women-working-ai/." Accessed January 19, 2022.

10. Deloitte. “Diversity as an Engine of Innovation. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/deloitte-review/issue-8/diversity-as-an-engine-of-innovation.html."  Accessed January 19, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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