What does the future of work hold for women?

Updated: May 13

As COVID-19 continues to affect lives and livelihoods around the world it also continues to affect women's employment.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to the current crisis than men’s jobs. Women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses. What about the short- or long-term future?

For years, women’s share of the global labor force has been stuck short of the mark; progress toward gender equality at work is glacial.

Not only are the effects from the pandemic going to last for several years, but with continued improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, we all should be honing new skills to remain employed. While uncertainty remains about whether automation will result in widespread unemployment, any changes are likely to impact men and women differently.

There are other new challenges we face in addition to long-established ones. Between 40 million and 160 million women globally may need to transition between occupations by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles.

The Harvard Business Review 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. But, as a result of that displacement, women will need to make far more significant transitions compared to men and may find it more difficult to capture new opportunities because of the persistent barriers they face.

What's to be done? If you are able to, join the automation wave!

Women need to be more engaged in technology—broader access, more skills, and increased participation in its creation—to thrive. Technology can break down many of the barriers facing women, opening up new economic opportunities, helping them to participate in the workforce, and, in the automation age, navigate transitions.

Are there other options? Yes, indeed! Women are more likely to gain new jobs in occupations with the lowest risk of automation. That’s what we have left, but there's plenty of it.

Researchers broadly agree that women may benefit from job growth in fields least likely to be automated, such as healthcare and education. Such jobs have relatively low risk of automation, and are projected to be among the fastest growing over the next decade.

At the end, not much will change if we don't fight for our rights. In the absence of intentional policies, women may continue to lag in what are called the best sectors.

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