Findings from a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have shown that around 21 million jobs held by women and nine million jobs held by men could be replaced by AI. But why are women likely to be more affected?

By and large, the disparity comes down to the differences in the roles held by the two genders. Still, we see an over-representation of women in positions such as clerical work – and an under-representation in leadership positions. Indeed, it’s been known for a while now that women aren’t as likely to end up in leadership positions as their male peers. This is due to factors such as unconscious bias, childcare responsibilities and discrimination. And it means that, despite making up 40% of the workforce, women hold just 23% of executive leadership positions and 29% of senior manager positions globally.

But another thing to consider here is whether or not AI should herald doom and gloom for women’s jobs – or should it be that business leaders make a more concerted effort to help women reach leadership positions or even stay in full-time roles for longer? We’ve already seen AI and other technologies play a big part in improving diversity and inclusion (DEI) across the workforce and, with adoption from more companies, there are certain things employers could embrace to advance their female employees, rather than allow it to be a threat to them.

AI as a remote work facilitator

That’s because AI and other technologies have had a remarkably positive impact on levelling the playing field at work – especially when it comes to gender. By facilitating remote work, technology has allowed individuals to access opportunities that may have previously been out of reach.

It has proven remarkably valuable in keeping women in full-time jobs, with an incredible 10% more mums working full-time now than they did pre-pandemic. Many have said the new-found flexibility in how they do their job has meant they can keep working around childcare responsibilities. But it’s not just mums. Women, in general, also tend to attribute hybrid working to achieving a better work/life balance overall.

AI can combat human bias to attract and retain talent

Gender biases in the workplace have been known to result in the unequal treatment of employees, fuelling a toxic work environment with decreased morale and productivity. They can also affect hiring and promotion decisions, which is one of the reasons why we have fewer women in leadership positions. Ultimately, the above is because humans are prone to bias – but technology has been touted as an antidote to this.

In the application space specifically, some platforms use software algorithms and machine learning to help organisations identify, measure, track and address critical issues that impact employee populations. These themes include pay equity and recruiting to uncover and retain diverse talent. Some can detect gender pay inequities across the workforce, while others can track, diagnose and recommend specific plans for improving a company’s DEI objectives. AI underpins many of these solutions and can suggest measures to remove bias from pay and other crucial decisions.

Using AI to understand the needs of your workforce

But it’s not just about eliminating bias with AI; it’s about using it to listen to women too – and that’s going to be the best way to create an employee experience which supports them to stay in their jobs.

Moving forward, sentiment analysis, which is often conducted using AI, will be imperative in truly understanding what women need from their employers. It can be deployed to find nuances in employee experience surveys and to understand which processes or policies might currently be making it harder for women to feel like they can stay in their jobs. For instance, will a return to office policy mean some of the female workforce need to either quit or go part-time as they or their partner can’t juggle five days a week in an office with childcare requirements? Or perhaps a new client in a different country means they now must work late, and they have concerns about getting home safely? Only by listening to women and conducting a sentiment analysis, can an employer really get to the heart of how their policies could be affecting their female employees.

Make sure every employee has the technology they need

Sentiment analysis can also help an employer understand how emerging technologies are resonating with workforces. Questions added to surveys that ask staff to review the impact new technology is having on their jobs can help business leaders understand more about the way each member of staff is navigating the IT or device they’ve been provided with, rather than simply finding out if they like it or not.

In the future, these surveys should establish if all demographic groups are equipped with the right tools and training to succeed in their role, whether working remotely or in the office. Regardless of gender or technical ability, a diverse workforce means everyone should have access to the technology that can help them do their job to the best of their ability.

Furthermore, with hybrid work proven to benefit women especially, equipping employees with the tools to do their job as effectively from home as in the workplace will be imperative in achieving a gender-diverse workforce.

Conclusion

With the above in mind, AI should be seen as an enabler to protect and enhance women’s jobs, rather than pose a threat to them. However business leaders will need to proactively work alongside their female employees to understand how they can support them to do their jobs with the right mix of work/life balance so they can stay in their employ. Moving forward, that will be the best way to get women into leadership positions and bring equality to roles once and for all.


About the author

Patrycja Sobera, Global Vice President of delivery for digital workplace solutions at Unisys, argues that AI and technology should be used to support women in the workforce, rather than putting their jobs at risk.

Patrycja is Global Vice President for Unisys, Digital Workplace Solutions. She is an award-winning service delivery professional, certified in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Expert, PRINCE2 and Six Sigma.

Patrycja brings extensive experience in global technology service delivery, demonstrating a proven ability to drive continual service improvement and optimization while consistently exceeding industry benchmarks.