Automation Could Worsen Male-Female Inequality

National News
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Women are a majority (58 percent) of workers in jobs that are at high risk of automation, despite making up less than half (47 percent) of the U.S. workforce, according to a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). Hispanic women face the highest risk of job automation with one in three working in high-risk occupations.

Women, Automation, and the Future of Work presents the first comprehensive gender analysis of the potential impact of technological change on women’s and men’s employment in the United States, with an emphasis on the likely effects for women. The study explores how gender segregation of the U.S. labor market and trends in digitalizing jobs, gig work, and high-tech fields signal a troubling trajectory toward greater gender inequality in the future of work.

Other major findings from the study include:

  • For women, technology is particularly likely to threaten well-paying jobs. The risk of automation is greatest for men in low-wage jobs, but women’s risk of automation is distributed across better and lower paid occupations.
  • Women are more likely than men to work with computers and digital media yet face a 41 percent earnings gap with men in returns on digital skills.
  • The share of women working in the three largest high-tech jobs—which will shape innovations of the future—has fallen over the past 20 years.
  • While opening new employment opportunities for women, “gig” work is highly gender segregated, just like the U.S. labor market as a whole.

“This report aims to deeply investigate recent trends in employment to chart whether we are building on gains toward greater equality or cementing inequality for generations of workers to come. What we found were warning signs—declining earnings in women’s jobs, lower returns on education and digital skills for women, and concerning disparities in job quality. By enacting gender-aware policies, we can shift the trajectory of the future of work toward greater equity, benefiting women, families, and the U.S. economy as a whole,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

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