Nearly half of Thai women age 35 and older showed the strongest motivation towards entrepreneurship, as the majority of the female workforce across Southeast Asia is interested in taking additional courses to develop their skills, a recent study showed.

A survey by Singapore-based non-profit She Loves Data (SLD) found 87% of female employees in the region are looking forward to enrolling in professional courses this year, with IT, computing and programming (33%) the top three choices.

Social media marketing is the most sought-after course among female employees in Thailand, according to more than half of respondents in two age groups: workers aged 16-34 and those 35 and older.

The second most popular course is marketing and advertising technology, with 58% of women 35 and older interested as well as 46% of female employees aged 16-34 employees, the data revealed.

Nearly 80% of the region’s female employees prefer professional courses to be conducted online, according to the survey jointly conducted with Milieu Insight, an international research and data analytics company.

“As businesses across all industries embrace digital transformation, corporations and employers struggle to fill roles across all digital skills domains,” said Jana Marle-Zizkova, SLD’s co-founder and volunteering chief executive.

The research revealed the top motives among Thai women for enrolling in a professional course this year are the desire to improve their job performance (52%), set up their own business (43%) and increase prospects or employability (41%).

In the region, 34% of respondents said they wanted to make the most of their free time, whereas 28% wanted to develop their skills for a pay rise.

“This highlights the importance placed on personal and professional development,” said Antarika Sen, senior researcher at Milieu Insight.

About 5 in 10 women in Singapore cited industry-recognised qualifications as a key deciding factor, further emphasising the need for organisations to provide viable pathways for women’s professional growth, she said.

The latest data from the UN shows the world is unlikely to reach gender equality by 2030. The “Gender Snapshot 2022” report found women’s labour force participation in 2022 was projected to remain below pre-pandemic levels in 169 countries and territories at 50.8%, compared with 51.8% in 2019.

Gender inequality is expected to widen in 114 countries and areas compared with 2019. The gender gap in hours worked in employment expanded globally, threatening to increase gender pay gaps, the report noted.