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New Research Shows 80% Of Women’s Jobs At Risk of Becoming AI Automated; Should You Worry?

Certain occupations are filled in greater percentages by women such as HR and healthcare and they are particularly susceptible to AI-driven disruption.
Cover Image Source: Pexels/CoWomen
Cover Image Source: Pexels/CoWomen

Nearly 80% of women's jobs could be disrupted and automated by artificial intelligence (AI), according to the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. This figure is significantly higher than the 58% of working men whose jobs are susceptible to automation. The analysis highlights the potentially disproportionate impact of AI on women in the workforce.

Generative AI technologies like ChatGPT have the ability to transform the labor market by automating tasks previously performed by humans. These technologies can create content such as text, images, audio, video and code based on training data. However, the research indicates that a significant portion of women's jobs are at risk of disruption and automation.

Image Source: Pexels/Matheus Bertelli
Image Source: Pexels/Matheus Bertelli

Certain occupations are filled in greater percentages by women such as office and administrative support, healthcare practitioners and technical roles, education, training and library positions, healthcare support, community and social services. “Women, as well as people of color, tend to be delegated into occupations that are repetitive in nature when it comes to tasks,” observed Nicol Turner Lee, director of the Center for Technology Innovation, per TechNewsWorld.

These repetitive tasks are particularly susceptible to AI-driven automation hence, posing a threat to those who perform them.  

The Impact on Women's Labor Force Participation

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, women's labor force participation rates were increasing at a faster pace than those of men. Factors contributing to this trend included the growth of women-dominated industries like healthcare and caregiving, increased educational opportunities for women and greater participation in traditionally male-dominated fields. 

The pandemic caused a significant setback for women in the workforce, per CNN Business. The leisure and hospitality as well as education and health services sectors, which have higher female representation, were severely affected by job losses. Challenges in the childcare sector, which disproportionately affected women due to caregiving responsibilities, further hindered their ability to return to work.

Image Source: Pexels/CoWomen
Image Source: Pexels/CoWomen

Despite these setbacks, women bounced back as the economy recovers from the pandemic. Factors such as increased access to childcare, higher wages and flexible work arrangements have contributed to women's reentry into the labor market.

AI Poses Both Threat and Opportunity

AI represents both a threat and an opportunity for women in the workforce. While certain roles could be automated, others may benefit from AI applications. For example, AI could aid in diagnosing medical conditions by analyzing large amounts of imaging data. However, highly automatable roles are at risk of being replaced by AI, which could have negative implications for women in those occupations.

Image Source: Pexels/Andrew Neel
Image Source: Pexels/Andrew Neel

It is crucial for businesses to ensure responsible use of AI applications and address potential concerns around bias and ethics. While job displacement may occur in the short run, new jobs and opportunities are likely to emerge as they have with previous technological advancements. The productivity of existing jobs can also be enhanced through AI, allowing individuals to focus on more value-added tasks.

The Importance of Human Expertise

Certain fields such as libraries and voice acting rely heavily on human expertise and critical thinking, making them less susceptible to automation. Librarians, for instance, play a vital role in evaluating information and ensuring trustworthy sources. AI can handle rote tasks but there will always be a need for human intervention in areas that require critical thinking.

Voice actors have also been proactive in pushing back against AI-generated voices that could potentially replace them. Organizations like the National Association of Voice Actors have developed guidelines and campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of human voices in the industry. 

Image Source: Pexels/Dmitry Demidov
Image Source: Pexels/Dmitry Demidov

Besides having people who can explain AI outcomes, companies need "sustainers" or employees who can work to ensure that AI systems are working "properly, safely, and responsibly, " per Harvard Business Review.

Embracing AI Responsibly

As AI continues to advance, it is essential to address its impact on the workforce, particularly for women. A Harvard Business Review research involving 1,500 companies found that firms perform drastically better when humans and machines complement each other and work together. Balancing the potential disruptions with opportunities for growth and new roles is key. By leveraging AI to automate repetitive tasks and augment human capabilities, women and the larger workforce can benefit from increased productivity and innovation. Ethical considerations, diversity and inclusivity should be at the forefront of AI development to ensure a more equitable and sustainable future of work.