AI, COVID job disruptions risk hurting women more than men

AI, COVID job disruptions risk hurting women more than men

Aggravating gender disparity in the global workforce

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Turmoil in global labour markets from COVID-19 and technological advances like artificial intelligence are aggravating gender disparity in the global workforce, according to LinkedIn Corp.’s Suzanne Duke.

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“When there are big systemic shocks, it is women that take the biggest hit,” Duke, who heads global public policy at LinkedIn, said during a World Economic Forum conference in Geneva on Wednesday.

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Currently, women hold less than 30 per cent of all global AI roles, she said. “It is really, really important that we are creating opportunities for women to access what will be the jobs of tomorrow.”

Female labour force participation dropped precipitously in 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the WEF’s latest Global Gender Gap Report. The global percentage of working women now stands at the lowest level since the report was first created in 2006.

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At the same time, the pandemic-era shift toward more flexible working policies, like remote job opportunities, may be a “gamechanger” for women, Duke said.

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“Women want and need the flexibility to juggle their personal and professional responsibilities,” she told a panel chaired by Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua.

UBS AG chief economist Paul Donovan agreed that work from home marks an important shift for working women.

Flexible working “literally breaks the old boy network because you’re not going out for drinks with your all male buddies after work,” he said, adding that a more flexible working environment “requires you to think more objectively about actually measuring output, not who you get on with at the coffee machine.”

Donovan said that more businesses need to do a better job of building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

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“If your board is entirely comprised of white, Anglo-Saxon, middle-aged, bald men,” he said. “You’ve got a monoculture of thinking, and you’re basically guaranteed to fail.”


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