"Vulnerable" is a word that is often used to describe women. From violence to pay inequity, there are many areas in which women are at risk in society. But have you ever thought of technology as being a threat to a woman's wellbeing?
With the AI market expected to grow by 167% in 2018, women will now witness a brand-new threat in the workplace. A recent study by the World Economic Forum found that jobs traditionally performed by women are at risk of being eliminated thanks to technological advances.
"I think we are all threatened by AI, but it might be worse for women because women are often employed in roles that face the highest automation risks, such as cashiers or jobs in the foodservice industry," said Margaret Buj, a U.K.-based recruitment professional and interview coach. "I believe it will get harder for women who are lacking education or formal training, and perhaps for women living in rural areas where there will be fewer opportunities for unskilled work."
I think we are all threatened by AI, but it might be worse for women because women are often employed in roles that face the highest automation risks, such as cashiers or jobs in the food service industry … I believe it will get harder for women who are lacking education or formal training, and perhaps for women living in rural areas where there will be fewer opportunities for unskilled work.
According to the study, among the workers who are predicted to be affected by the rise of automation at work, 57 percent of those jobs are projected to be held by women. The reason for this, the study explains, is that there are still lines drawn in many industries between the jobs males traditionally perform and jobs females traditionally perform.
One example given in the report is secretarial and administrative work, which are overwhelmingly performed by women account for 164,000 jobs in the U.S., versus 90,000 assembly line jobs, which are more often held by men.
It's not a secret that AI is bad news for most American workers. In 2017, McKinsey researchers reported that a staggering 49 percent of the time spent on daily workplace functions could be automated with "currently demonstrated technology" that is either in development or which is already available. According to the same report, those numbers translate into nearly $16 trillion in wages and will affect the equivalent of 1.1 billion workers worldwide.
New Skills, New Opportunities
While automation may be an inevitability, it doesn't mean that women have to be left out in the cold work-wise.
To counteract the impact of AI on the female workforce, women must begin focusing on what the report called "reskilling," or the retraining of workers to allow them to remain relevant in today's workforce. In an article for Forbes, writer Jason Bloomberg calls this phenomenon "The Reskilling Revolution."
So, what will the reskilling of the American worker look like? According to an article written by Sean Hinton for Medium, four major players will serve critical roles in reskilling workers: government, employers, workers, and academia. Here is the breakdown of those roles:
- Government, he writes, must look at the problem at a high level to ensure that there is public policy in place that grants citizens a clear pathway to learning and the flexibility to access that learning.
- Employers have the responsibility to provide access to the training and development opportunities that will keep employees who are impacted by automation relevant in today's workforce. To do so, companies must understand the skills their employees currently have and the skills they will need to stay competitive. Additionally, he writes, employers have a responsibility not only to provide the training employees need to acquire these new skills but must provide that training during work hours and at no cost to employees.
- Academic and training institutions will assume a vital role in the retraining of employees moving forward, according to Hinton. These institutions will be responsible for identifying in-demand skills and creating the curriculum required to bring students up to speed.
- Workers, he writes, must be more introspective about their individual skillsets and take an active role in developing the competitive skills that employers seek and creating a career plan that will ensure they remain employable.
Buj agrees that reskilling is key to women maintaining their relevance in the workforce. She said that for working women who are concerned about being replaced by AI, getting a jump on cultivating skills that are highly transferable, such as computer skills, is insurance that they will continue to thrive.
Additionally, she recommends that women who are considering perusing advanced degrees will be well-served to focus on training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, which are areas of the workforce that have traditionally been populated by men.
"Most countries aren't producing enough employees with these skills and, in most of the companies I've done recruiting for in the past, there has been a distinct shortage of females in these roles," she said. "Take female engineers, for example. Global tech companies are desperate for them. Many companies have developed initiatives designed to attract more women into these engineering and tech jobs and to encourage young women to enter traditionally male fields, like coding and robotics."
Regardless of field, the reskilling of women workers is critical, according to the World Economic Forum report. Without reskilling, according to the report, predominantly female professions that are at risk of being disrupted by automation have only 12 job transition options, while male-dominated occupations that are deemed at-risk have almost twice as many opportunities for transferring into another role or profession.
Compare that to women who acquire competitive skills, either independently or through their employers. Those women have more than four times the number of professional options of those who don't. (Males who take advantage of reskilling opportunities have 80 options.)
Reskilling can narrow the options gap between women and men. More broadly, when considering pathways in an already disrupted future of jobs, an opportunity presents itself to close persistent gender wage gaps.
"In other words," the report concludes, "reskilling can narrow the options gap between women and men. More broadly, when considering pathways in an already disrupted future of jobs, an opportunity presents itself to close persistent gender wage gaps."
(Wo)man. Vs. Robot: 4 Tips for Winning the Battle Against Automation
1. Take advantage of any and all training opportunities your employer offers
The only way to get through the threat of being replaced by a machine is to stay competitive. Robots are good at repetitive tasks. Therefore, duties that require critical thinking still cannot be done by a robot. They also can't perform jobs that require human senses, like being a chef, which requires a sense of smell and taste. Focus on jobs that require a distinctly human touch to beat the 'bots.
2. Focus on soft skills
Soft skills, like communication and empathy, are not yet robotic functions. The good news for women is that they have them in spades. Women have an advantage when it comes to the soft skills that employers value for many roles. Using those skills to your advantage can be your ace in the hole when you are considering your next career move.
Soft skills, like communication and empathy, are not yet robotic functions … Using those skills to your advance can be your ace in the hole when you are considering your next career move.
3. Learn how to write a resume that flaunts the skills you do possess
It isn't always easy to articulate your transferable skills, though most people with work experience have several. Learning how to write a resume that will appeal to recruiters is critical to your future success. Working with a career coach or using a professional resume builder can help coax those skills out of you and onto the page, which will give you an advantage during your next job search.
4. Choose the correct resume format for your skills and work experience level
Those workers who are looking to make a major jump into a new profession may want to consider a functional or combination resume format, which emphasizes education and transferable skills over work experience, rather than the traditional chronological format.