Empowering Women in the AI Era: A Call to Action on International Women’s Day

March 8, 2024 | New Workplace Leadership | 6 min read

It’s well understood that generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is reshaping the world as we know it. From transforming our workplaces to the very nature of the jobs we do, AI has become our new normal.

In a recent report from Gartner, half of the 1,400+ organizations surveyed have increased their investment in GenAI over the past 10 months. Forty-four percent of organizations are piloting generative AI and 10% are actively using the technology.

But here’s the twist: as much as AI promises to revolutionize our lives, it seems to be playing favorites, and not in a good way.

The Disproportionate Impact of AI on Women’s Jobs

Women, in particular, find themselves at a crossroads – facing the double jeopardy of AI’s impact on their jobs and the noticeable gap in engaging with AI tools. Here are just two of the challenges they face:

  • Employment Disruption: Research suggests AI will impact 80% of all roles. And certain job roles traditionally held by women, such as clerical roles, might be at higher risk of displacement.
  • Gender Gap in Tech: There’s a well-documented gender gap in the tech industry that has potential to extend to AI development and implementation. In fact, recent research by the World Economic Forum and LinkedIn suggests that only 22% of jobs in artificial intelligence are held by women, with even fewer holding senior roles. We don’t see enough women in roles such as AI researchers, data scientists, and AI engineers. And because of this disparity, women have less influence in shaping the design and deployment of AI technologies, which can exacerbate biases and perpetuate inequalities.

Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the AI field, as well as initiatives to provide equitable access to AI education and training opportunities for women.

This International Women’s Day, let’s lean in to discover how we can turn some of these challenges inherent in AI into stepping stones for empowerment.

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4 Ways to Help Women Thrive in the Age of AI

Women have consistently demonstrated their adaptability and resilience in the face of change. As we navigate the evolving landscape of work, there are numerous opportunities to help them not only survive, but to thrive in the age of AI. Here are four:

1. Develop upskilling and reskilling programs.

Skill development is the single best way for people to stay competitive in today’s workforce. Upskilling and reskilling offer pathways to career advancement, increased job security, and higher earning potential. Moreover, individuals who actively engage in upskilling and reskilling are likely to perform their job duties more efficiently, make fewer errors, and exhibit higher levels of work engagement. In fact, more than three in five employers invest in skill-based training because of the return on investment and the opportunities it provides to directly address skill gaps, according to a survey from SHRM and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

For women, upskilling and reskilling programs should include getting hands-on with AI, understanding its language, and making it work for us – not against us. Investing in education and training programs tailored to emerging industries and technologies can equip women with the skills needed to remain competitive in the job market and transition into new roles that leverage their talents and expertise.

2. Emphasize what makes us human.

Even as AI technology takes center stage, organizations are relying more heavily on the skills that make their workplaces innately human – skills like creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving, to name a few. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report listed the top leadership competencies for 2024, and the list was primarily comprised of power skills.

And wouldn’t you know it . . . power skills are areas where women naturally excel.

When women assume leadership roles, they bring a distinct skill set and fresh perspectives to the table. Their innovative viewpoints and heightened awareness enable them to scrutinize and uncover nuances that may be overlooked by others. Communication, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence play a vital role in empowering women to lean into AI innovation. And by harnessing these power skills, women can not only contribute meaningfully to AI innovation but also shape its trajectory in a way that is inclusive, ethical, and beneficial for society.

3. Advocate for gender-inclusive AI development.

Women must have a seat at the table in the development and implementation of AI technologies – and they need to be included in key AI datasets. By advocating for diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, women can ensure that AI solutions consider a wide range of perspectives leading to more equitable outcomes. This is essential for mitigating bias, promoting diversity, addressing societal inequalities, fostering innovation, and upholding ethical standards in AI technologies.

When we look at AI datasets, we need to make sure women are accurately and equally represented to ensure unbiased results. AI systems tend to reflect the biases present in the data they are trained on, which can perpetuate or worsen societal inequalities. Think about a hiring algorithm trained on historical employee data; if certain groups are underrepresented due to past biases, the algorithm may inadvertently perpetuate those biases by favoring overrepresented groups.

By including diverse perspectives, experiences, and voices, gender-inclusive AI development can better address the needs and concerns of all genders. These types of ethical considerations are paramount in AI development, and prioritizing gender inclusivity aligns with principles of fairness, transparency, and accountability.

4. Build support networks and mentorship programs.

Strong networks are instrumental in fostering women’s involvement in AI; their networks offer women essential support, opportunities, and resources – serving as a gateway to a plethora of opportunities, including job openings, mentorship programs, training sessions, and industry events tailored to AI.

Through their connections, women can gain valuable insights, knowledge, and access to a supportive community of professionals. Mentors and coaches provide guidance, share experiences, and offer encouragement, helping women navigate their AI careers with confidence. Not only does this elevate the visibility of women in the field, providing platforms for recognition and highlighting their work, but it provides collaboration and partnership opportunities.

Let’s Make AI More Inclusive Today

While the impact of AI disruption on traditionally female-dominated roles is a concern, it also presents an opportunity for women to assert their resilience, creativity, and leadership. By taking small steps, we can go a long way in empowering women to navigate the changing landscape of work with confidence and determination.

This International Women’s Day let’s rally together to embrace AI technologies and champion skills development. It’s about making AI inclusive, ensuring it reflects the diverse needs and perspectives of all its users – especially women, who have so much to contribute to this new era.

It’s our moment. Let’s leverage our unique strengths, dive into AI, and shape a future that’s not just about technology, but about humanity and inclusivity. Here’s to breaking barriers, embracing innovation, and empowering women in the age of AI. Happy International Women’s Day – let’s make it count!

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