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Does Automation deliver a harsher blow on women?

Thursday August 12, 2021, By Diversity Digest

In the age of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), many fear losing their jobs to robots. Recent research at the McKinsey Global Institute finds that automation is likely to displace men and women more or less equally over the next decade. However, women have to make significant transitions compared to men, and many find it difficult to capture new opportunities because of the persistent barriers.

In India, where many women work in the agricultural sector, losses in this occupational category could account for 28 percent of jobs for women, compared with 16 percent of jobs lost by men. Women also dominate many occupations such as clerical support or service worker roles that account for 52 percent of potential job displacement. 

But the good news is that there could be job gains too. By 2030 it is predicted that women could gain 20 percent more jobs compared to present levels, provided they have the right skills, are mobile and adaptable, and are tech-savvy. 

Skills hold the key to unlocking opportunities required for a future in automation. Although women are getting an education across the world (statistics vary for different countries), many of them are unable to complete the course and remain unemployed or work as clerks, service workers, etc. that can be impacted by automation. To address the needs, schools, colleges, government, and the private sector should encourage women to study and pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Once at work, they need to upgrade and refresh their skills. 

Women are often less mobile than men and find it hard to switch occupations, unlike men. The reason being, women have to juggle between work and family, which leaves them with limited or no time at all to re-skill or upskill themselves. They also find it difficult to learn new things with the constant balancing act, and in this process, many give up their careers as well! For those who wish to continue, the responsibility of work-life balance could also impact their ambitions to reach heights in their careers. The juggling and balancing act of women leaves them with limited networking, which impacts their ability to capitalize on new opportunities available in the job space.

Being tech-savvy will break many barriers that women are facing. It will open up new economic opportunities for them, helping them participate in the workforce, and enable them to have a smooth transition in this age of automation. As per reports, globally, men are 33 percent more likely than women to have Internet access, and women only account for 35 percent of STEM students in higher education. Tech workers in many mature economies have less than 20 percent women. Only 1.4 percent of female workers have jobs in developing, maintaining, or operating information and computer technology (ICT) systems. 

Automation and technology are here to enable us and not vice-versa. All that women need to do is tighten their seat belts, invest in skilling themselves, and keep in touch with the current trends in technology, and the world will be yours.

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