Record-High Female Employment Faces Threat from AI
The surge in women’s employment in the United States is facing a new challenge in the form of artificial intelligence (AI). Recent projections by Goldman Sachs economists indicate that generative AI technologies, like ChatGPT, have the potential to automate and transform the labor market.
This transformation puts a significant portion of women’s jobs at risk, as studies show that nearly 80% of working women, approximately 59 million individuals, are in occupations that are susceptible to disruption and automation.
In comparison, only 58% of working men are in such positions, according to research conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
The Disproportionate Impact: Why Women Are More Vulnerable
The potential impact of AI on women’s jobs is alarming. The majority of female workers are employed in white-collar occupations, which makes them more exposed to AI disruption.
Office and administrative support, healthcare practitioners and technical roles, education, training and library positions, health care support, and community and social services are among the sectors with a higher proportion of female employees and high susceptibility to AI automation, according to UNC Kenan-Flagler’s research.
While some jobs, particularly in manual services and production, may be more challenging to automate, the estimates suggesting that nearly eight out of 10 women workers could be affected by automation are concerning.
The Erosion of Gains and the Promise of New Opportunities
Julia Pollak, chief economist at online job marketplace ZipRecruiter, acknowledges the worry that women’s hard-fought labor market gains could be eroded by AI.
However, she also emphasizes that these technologies will create numerous opportunities in women’s jobs. Although some jobs may be replaced in the short run, historical evidence suggests that technological advancements have always led to the emergence of new jobs and different opportunities.
While the potential disruptions cannot be ignored, it is crucial to recognize that AI may enhance productivity and augment existing roles.
Pre-Pandemic Progress and Post-Pandemic Setback
Leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, women’s labor force participation rates were increasing at a faster pace than their male counterparts, driven by various factors. Female-dominated industries, improved educational attainment, and greater representation in traditionally male-dominated fields contributed to these gains.
However, the pandemic caused a significant setback, resulting in job losses and disruptions primarily in sectors where women constitute the majority of the workforce, such as leisure and hospitality and education and health services.
The subsequent recovery, marked by increased flexibility, remote work options, improved access to child care, and rising wages, has propelled women’s labor force participation rates to historic highs once again.
Identifying AI-Exposed Occupations and Potential Biases
Revelio Labs, a workforce data analysis firm, has identified occupations most vulnerable to AI disruption, revealing that several positions with a high percentage of women are at risk.
Bill and account collectors, payroll and timekeeping clerks, executive secretaries, word processors and typists, and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks are among the AI-exposed roles with significant female representation. The impact of AI extends beyond job displacement, raising concerns about bias and accuracy in AI-generated content.
Ethical considerations surrounding data sources and the potential for biased outcomes must be addressed as AI continues to evolve.
The Human Touch: Resilience and Adaptation
While AI poses challenges to certain industries, including libraries and voiceover work, human involvement remains indispensable. Professionals like librarians, who possess critical thinking skills and can evaluate information sources, believe that AI cannot fully replace their expertise.
Voice actors, too, are actively advocating against the use of AI-generated voices, emphasizing the value of their unique contributions. Collaborating with AI for tasks like note-taking and transcription could free up time for more complex and creative responsibilities.
The willingness to embrace AI depends on its capacity to enhance human potential and address concerns around job displacement, bias, and ethics.