Automation May Actually Be a Good Thing for Gender Equality in the Work Place

The coming automation revolution — threatening to uproot millions of jobs around the world — could present an unexpected silver lining in the form of work place equality.

Many jobs in almost all sectors will become automated in coming years, due to advances artificial intelligence.

However, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) called The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, “automation is more likely to replace less skilled jobs, giving women an advantage since they now outperform men on most measures of educational attainment”.

The OECD expect that despite women being paid roughly 15 percent less than men, and more likely to work part time, they typically spend longer in education and skilled workers are at less risk of automation.

About five percent of workers with a degree are at a high risk of losing their job due to automation, on average, compared to 40 percent of workers with a high school education.

An analysis of jobs gained and lost over the last 15 years shows the majority of job growth has been on the high-skill end, and women have benefited from this more than men.

According to the report, the risk of automation has commonly been associated with male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing.

Other female-dominated sectors, such as education, social work, and health care, have a lower risk of job automation, though there are still expected to be extensive job losses.

At the Women’s Forum Global Meeting 2017 this week in Paris, where the report was presented, speakers pointed to the need to prepare for the coming automation revolution.

Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture, said:

We need to turn our focus to re-training and new opportunities. How do we prepare people towards this new generation of jobs? Business leaders need to make the right decisions about how to benefit people and to apply technology responsibly. There will be jobs eliminated, but corporate and political leaders have a responsibility to retrain workers.

While the automation revolution is expected to create new areas of employment, presenting new opportunities for women, the OECD report said that without necessary action, digitalisation could lead to an increase in the barriers women face in the workplace.