As Jobs Are Automated, Will Men and Women Be Affected Equally?

Because AI tools will tend to automate tasks, rather than whole jobs, many occupations will be affected unequally. While the gender distribution of occupations may shift over time, PwC has estimated that more women than men will be affected by job changes between now and the late 2020s. This disproportionate impact on women is based largely on the high number of women employed in clerical occupations: in the U.S., for example, 94% of secretaries and administrative assistants are women. These kinds of roles are being disproportionally affected by technological developments like automated assistants, and smarter email, calendar, and financial software. At the same time, the under-representation of women in science and technology roles is occurring alongside an over-representation of women in the kinds of roles that require emotional intelligence and advanced communication skills, such as speech pathologists, preschool teachers, or occupational therapists, to name a few. As skills such as empathy and collaboration are among those that are hardest to recreate in AI tools, many of these occupations are likely to be safer from technological disruption. Looking ahead, one happy possibility from the rise of AI is that people’s ability to understand one another and work together may become more valued as technological tools overtake us in other areas. My optimism also has me wondering whether, as workers gravitate towards the safest roles, there may be greater gender balance in jobs that have traditionally been dominated by men or by women. If so, this opens a greater variety of choices — and the possibility of greater job satisfaction — for both our sons and our daughters.


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