Opinion: Why We Need To Protect Women In The Workplace From the Growing Use Of Generative AI

Opinion: Why We Need To Protect Women In The Workplace From the Growing Use Of Generative AI

In this op-ed, Jane Livesey (pictured), head of APJ, at technology consultancy Cognizant explains that women are more susceptible to potential job losses from generative AI and, as a result, need to be offered greater protections than men in the workplace.

Many people in the workforce are wary of the effect generative AI will have on their jobs. Banks are already using AI chatbots for process automation and handling customer service queries. Integrating quantum power and generative techniques is unlocking unprecedented applications, while smart contracts running on decentralised networks are aiming to settle complex interbank transactions. Real-time analytics of operations data will allow AI – rather than humans – to monitor risks and anomalies and initiate preventive measures across a variety of organisations, while fraud identification models will leverage biometric surveillance and quantum pattern recognition to flag threats before they occur.

According to our recent global study, 90 per cent of all jobs could be impacted by the technology over the next decade and more women than men believe generative AI will negatively impact their work in a variety of ways. Jobs that are dominated by women workers and will have high exposure scores in 10 years’ time include customer service reps (63 per cent exposure score), marketing managers (58.5 per cent), HR specialists and assistants (55 per cent), PR managers (53.8 per cent) and insurance underwriters (48.3 per cent).

These results definitely speak to global trends emerging for female workers, who could see an unbalanced share of the risk from generative AI due to the occupations they tend to predominate being greatly more disrupted by generative AI, if not eliminated altogether.

To understand this phenomenon, it’s vital to consider that historically, technology-driven revolutions have tended to displace employees in jobs traditionally categorised as blue-collar. With generative AI, however, those at highest risk of disruption or displacement perform knowledge work, also known as white-collar jobs. Ironically, women’s enormous gains in white-collar work may now make them more exposed to disruption.

Reducing the risk

There is a disproportionate disadvantage for a substantial segment of the workforce and businesses need to take action to right the balance. It will be essential to safeguard women from bearing an unfair share of the negative impacts of generative AI.

Here are three key ways in which leaders can provide women with equitable access to opportunities and economic mobility as the generative AI era takes hold:

1. Help women better understand the capabilities of generative AI through reskilling

The more we can help women understand how they can use generative AI to improve their own job performance or to help them move into a new type of occupation, the more they will embrace the new world of work brought in by generative AI. Creating programs that upskill women across the world with fundamentals and skills, and creating a community in which to safely practice skills and wield AI with purpose. Improve access to senior women leaders in the industry, ultimately creating familiarity with generative AI will breed trust in the technology.

2. Workplace support for families

Something generative AI will likely not change is the fact that women can often be the primary caregivers to family members. The workplace needs to recognise and support the job flexibility this requires. Doing so will help women better establish a career trajectory into roles that enable them to work alongside generative AI. Organisations that offer returnship programs can help upskill employees after a career break, helping them get back into their former role or a new one.

3. Put generative AI gains to good use

Today’s net zero programs redistribute profits to take care of the planet, so why can’t tomorrow’s generative AI gains be shared with employees and society? For example, investments could be made in educational programs to further support reskilling, particularly for highly exposed jobs. Organisations and their leaders that think progressively about generative AI reinvestment should clearly communicate their intent with the workforce and the world.

As generative AI becomes mainstream, there is a prime opportunity for productivity gains across social sectors to be distributed more fairly, and act as a balance wheel for society. By preparing now, businesses can ensure women (and other underrepresented workers with diverse backgrounds) have a seat at the table when generative AI is implemented. Because for the technology to achieve its lofty goals, no one can be knowingly left behind.

Jane Livesey is the head of Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ), representing Cognizant’s commercial and delivery interests in Australia, New Zealand, ASEAN, Greater China, India and Japan.




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