By Divya Bhati: The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing about a seismic shift in the global workforce, with its potential to automate a vast array of tasks previously performed by humans. People fear AI replacing humans in offices and eventually causing job losses. However, amid all the fear of AI taking over the corporate workforce, a recent study reveals a concerning trend, stating that AI will replace more female employees than male employees.
A recent study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, titled ‘Generative AI and the Future of Work in America,’ sheds light on the significant impact of AI on the US job market by 2030. The study suggests that AI-driven automation will likely replace jobs involving data collection and repetitive tasks, leading to approximately 12 million occupational transitions in the US alone by 2030.
One notable concern highlighted in the report is that these job shifts will disproportionately affect women compared to men, as AI is expected to automate more roles in industries traditionally dominated by women. The McKinsey report reveals that women are 1.5 times more likely than men to require transitioning into new occupations due to AI automation.
This disparity is not merely a result of the numerical dominance of women in these sectors. The report highlights that even though men outnumber women in the workforce, 21 per cent more women are exposed to AI automation. This is due to the fact that industries most vulnerable to AI disruption, such as office support, customer service, and food service, have a higher representation of female employees.
For instance, the study found that 80 per cent of customer service representatives in the United States are women, and that 60 per cent of office support workers are women. And these are two occupations that are highly likely to be automated by AI in the coming years.
“We estimate that demand for clerks could decrease by 1.6 million jobs, in addition to losses of 830,000 for retail salespersons, 710,000 for administrative assistants, and 630,000 for cashiers. These jobs involve a high share of repetitive tasks, data collection, and elementary data processing, all activities that automated systems can handle efficiently,” reveals the report.
The implications of this trend are far-reaching. The report suggests that workers in lower-wage jobs, which are often held by women, are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions. Moreover, most will require additional skills to successfully transition into new roles. This is particularly concerning given that women are already paid approximately 22 per cent less than men, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Another report by the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise highlights the shift in women employment, stating that , around eight out of ten women in the US workforce, approximately 58.87 million individuals, are employed in occupations highly exposed to generative AI automation. In contrast, the corresponding figure for men stands at six out of ten, totaling approximately 48.62 million.
“Overall, 21% more women are exposed to AI automation than men, even though men outnumber women in the workforce. This is due to the affected occupations being populated by more women than men,” the report said.
The report calls for a significant shift in hiring practices. Employers are urged to prioritize skills and competencies over credentials, recruit from overlooked populations such as rural workers and people with disabilities, and provide training that keeps pace with evolving needs. These measures are crucial to safeguard female workers from the potentially detrimental effects of AI automation.
“Employers will need to hire for skills and competencies rather than credentials, recruit from overlooked populations (such as rural workers and people with disabilities), and deliver training that keeps pace with their evolving needs,” said the author of the study.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. While AI may pose a threat to certain occupations, it also presents opportunities for job creation in new and emerging fields. For instance, the report by McKinsey states that the AI transition will boost job opportunities for roles that require complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and advanced technical skills.
Therefore, in order to move successfully with the AI transition, all female and male employees should ensure they upskill themselves and seize opportunities around AI and emerging trends.