Job automation may negatively impact women’s job opportunities more than men’s, report shows


Automation and artificial intelligence technologies will displace men and women fairly equally over the next decade, but women may find more difficulty in that transition.

Woman in and office with a man at a computer

Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

Automation and artificial intelligence technologies will displace men and women fairly equally over the next decade, but women may find more difficulty in that transition.

An analysis from the McKinsey Global Institute with the Harvard Business Review found that about 21 percent of men and 20 percent women across 10 countries (six mature economies and four emerging economies) could see their job displaced by automation by 2030.

While new jobs will arise, more than 60 percent of newly created occupations are in male-dominated fields, like social media managers and data scientists, according to the report's evidence from the United States. Additionally, between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to change occupations by 2030, usually into higher-skilled roles requiring more education or training.

Overall, the report's findings mean that women are likely to have more barriers to succeeding in the future labor market, researchers say.

"Women and men face a period of disruption and change. It will be vital for both to develop (1) the skills that will be in demand; (2) the flexibility and mobility needed to negotiate labor-market transitions successfully; and (3) the access to and knowledge of technology necessary to work with automated systems, including participating in its creation," the report said.

But due to "long-established and pervasive structural and societal barriers," women are hindered in all three of those mentioned above.

The report says technology could be the pathway to secure women's advancement in their careers in the changing economies.

"Technology can give [women] new flexibility—working from home, engaging in e-commerce instead of brick-and-mortar businesses, for instance—but companies still need to expand the range of flexible working options," the report said. Currently, 23 percent of employers are offering flexible or remote working options, according to a 2018 survey.

Working from home isn't a new concept. In 2015, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom found a 13 percent performance improvement of people working from home versus in the office and a 50 percent decrease in quit rate. "There are massive benefits," Bloom said in a 2017 TED Talk. "For employees, they're much more productive and happier. For managers, you don't have to spend so much of your time recruiting and training people all of the time. For firms, you make so much profit. And for society, there's a huge benefit in reducing congestion, driving times and ultimately pollution."

Though, the report highlights that men are 33 percent more likely than women to have access to the internet, so even potentially having access to advance can be a barrier for women.

"Unless such barriers are addressed, it will be hard for women – and men – to cross gender lines into different occupations," the report said. "To tap into their full potential, companies, together with governments, need to enable women through concerted and creative solutions to equip them for the change that lies ahead."

Heather Leighton


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