610 million members. 200 countries. One website. No, I’m not talking about Facebook.
You may be surprised to know that this is LinkedIn. That’s right, LinkedIn. That website that always sends you jobs that are a “good fit,” and seems more about finding people you went to college with than anything else.
A recurring theme in our class discussions is how data is being used. We (and the public at large) talk about the data that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, collect, and use. We, or at least I, forget that LinkedIn can, and should, be considered a social media platform. We connect with friends, colleagues, and classmates, intentionally trying to cast as a wide a net as possible, and hopefully leverage these cyber connections for career connections.
In the process, LinkedIn has gathered a literal treasure trove of data – our educational history, our work history, our perceived skills set, all of the sundry connections that we make on the platform, plus where we log in from, whether or not we are actively looking for a job, and so much more. So what are they doing with all of this data? It can’t just be flooding our inboxes with emails about potential job opportunities.
What if I told you they were using this data for good?
That’s right, good. Or, at the very least, not bad. A few weeks ago, I attended Harvard’s Dynamic Women in Business Conference. It’s a great networking opportunity, and I was hopeful that I would come away with some information that I could use for a blog post. Luckily, that worked out to my advantage. I attended a panel called “Technology for Social Good,” and had the opportunity to listen to Nicole Isaac, the Director of North American Policy at LinkedIn, who, according to her LinkedIn profile, “partners with local, state, Federal and international governments to inform workforce investments through the Economic Graph.” Aside from realizing that I want to be Nicole when I grow up (look her up, she’s got an amazing background), I had the chance to learn about a side of LinkedIn I had never known about.
If you go to Economic Graph, you will be directed to Linkedin’s Economic Graph. According to LinkedIn, the Economic Graph is a digital representation of all of the data on LinkedIn. At this point, you may be asking, why does this matter? Will this help LinkedIn give me better job recommendations, or maybe target me for specific MOOCs (massive open online courses)?
The answer is no. While the website does those things, that’s not the purpose of the Economic Graph. Instead, LinkedIn partners with organizations around the world, including the World Economic Forum, city and state governments throughout the US, and the World Bank, among others, to identify key insights and share them with the appropriate parties. They’ve published research that includes:
- Global Human Capital Report 2017 – This report looks at the status, gaps and potential in human capital across the world, and ranks countries based on how well they are developing human capital;
- The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 – This report examines whether countries distribute resources and opportunities equitability between women and men;
- The Africa Report – which is focused on the future of jobs and skills in Sub-Saharan Africa;
- Competitive Cities Project – which tries to find labor market insights in developing economies around the world; and
- MENA Report, which is focused on the Middle East and North Africa, including a look at education opportunities, skills, and jobs in the region.
Since March is International Women’s Month, I decided to look at the Global Gender Gap Report, to see what insights LinkedIn has gleaned, and if those insights can be utilized by companies. Let’s face it, I’m a woman in an MBA program, so these are some very real concerns.
What I discovered is that the World Economic Forum published a 361 page report in December of 2017. To be far, approximately 85% of the report is profiles of the 144 countries that are looked at in the report. If you take the time to read this report, or any other report published with LinkedIn, they are incredibly data heavy. They also have some incredibly valuable insights, like:
- If current trends remain the same, as of 2017, the global gender gap will be closed in exactly 100 years, which is an increase from the 83 years they reported in 2016;
- Improving gender parity may result in pretty significant economic dividends, including an additional $250 billion added to the GDP of the UK and $1,750 billion added to the GDP of the US, among others; and
- Closing occupational gender gaps will be key in closing the overall gender gap, and doing so requires adjustment within the education system, within companies, and by policymakers.
The specifics of the Global Gender Gap Report, at the very least, are likely not surprising to anyone. But what about places like Africa, where the skilled, educated workers are emigrating to the US and Europe? These reports provide key insights to companies and governments on where they need to invest to retain their talent, and where their current gaps are.
We talk all the time about how social media platforms collect our data, and we don’t know what they’re doing with it. It turns out, LinkedIn wants us to know what they do with our data, and they want to use our data for good. It’s a pretty nice change of pace, and hopefully this can serve as a model for companies like Facebook and Twitter as they move forward.