By Bistriti Poddar
The way people work has fundamentally changed, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. Artificial Intelligence (AI), digitalisation and Machine Learning (ML) are eliminating several jobs involving routine tasks through automation. However, research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revealed that automation will create more challenges for women and they somehow need to shatter the glass ceiling.
As per a report by McKinsey & Company, 40 million to 160 million women across the world may need to change their occupations by 2030, often into higher-skilled roles due to automation. To counter this disruption, women as well as men need to be skilled, tech-savvy and mobile to move forward in the world of work. While job loss is a big concern, if women undertake these transitions, they could be on the path to better-paid work and more productive work. But, if they fail to keep up, they could face a growing salary gap or be left further behind considering that gender equality in work is already low worldwide.
Upskilling is the Key to Long-Term Sustainability
The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe effect on women workers. A lot of clerical and administrative jobs that were primarily served by women are gradually being replaced by automation. On the other hand, the pandemic has also accelerated digital disruption across industries. Almost every business had to shift online which created a huge demand for skilled employees who are accustomed to the latest advanced technologies. Thereby, the way forward for both businesses and women employees is to upskill.
Rather than allowing the digital disruptions in the workplace to cast women employees aside, reskilling provides a better way to develop an advantage in challenging times. It can drastically accelerate the pace of progress on diversity which will be good for women workers and critical for the growth of organisations.
Reskilling women employees can also flip the odds and provide ample opportunities for women, mostly in the in-demand STEM roles. While clerical or administrative jobs largely held by women start to disappear, women can learn about new skills and technologies that can pay as much or more – and be trained again as the requirements of businesses change.
How Organisations can Support the Digital Literacy of Women
There are various steps which can be taken by organisations to create a successful reskilling programme to make women less vulnerable to technological replacement. Here are some:
- Reskilling offerings must be targeted to business functions where the participation of women is high – like administrative and human resources – and roles are vulnerable.
- Enhance access to training while on the job to allow more women employees to develop the skills that can prepare them to remain a part of the workforce and advance to new roles as more jobs become automated.
- Involve female leaders to provide formalised leadership development opportunities for women to develop their leadership skills.
- Support digital entrepreneurship of women and provide them with the required tools and solutions to assist them in their present roles.
- Businesses can also provide licensed access to online courses to employees, allowing them to browse courses on technological themes and topics.
- Make smart technological solutions a part of the business operations to reduce work-family conflicts and care burdens and promote workplace policies that encourage a more equal division of care work between men and women.
- Usher in new technologies that work with people; design and implement technologies that complement employees’ jobs and allow them to focus on the more interesting and challenging aspects of their jobs.
The rapid advancement of automation has made it urgent to put in more effort to bring equity to both women and men employees so that everyone has equal opportunities to contribute to and benefit from, in a technology-enabled world. With a balanced workforce of women and men, armed with important skills of the day, businesses can find big success in the digital age of tomorrow.
The author is chief communication officer, uKnowva. Views are personal.