Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 9 News List

The role of women at work as the digital revolution rolls on

By Anu Madgavkar and Sandrine Devillard

At Nanyang Technological University, females comprised only 27 percent of the undergraduate computer-science program in 2015-2016, despite accounting for half of all undergraduates at the university.

What is at stake is not just women’s ability to seize the opportunities offered by the digital revolution, but also their capacity to withstand the coming wave of automation. According to research by the institute, in Singapore alone, 800,000 fulltime-equivalent jobs could be displaced by 2030 due to automation. The jobs that are most vulnerable to automation are the low-paid, lower-skill jobs that women are more likely to hold.

At the same time, though automation risks disrupting many jobs, or tasks within jobs, for both men and women, it also takes some of the drudgery out of current work, tailoring it to human abilities. The result could be higher wages that contribute to the creation of more new jobs — 300 million to 365 million worldwide — as spending increases, with emerging economies gaining the most.

Furthermore, among the new jobs that will be created will be many in fields like education and healthcare, where women have traditionally thrived. According to the institute’s research, more than 100 million jobs could be created over the next 10 to 15 years as healthcare and education needs grow.

It is not yet clear exactly how automation will affect women’s employment, but there is no doubt that protecting — and even enhancing — women’s job and income prospects will require upgrading their skills, so that they can take advantage of the new and changing opportunities created by the ongoing digital revolution.

The success of women in e-commerce attests to the power of digital technologies to level the economic playing field, to the benefit of individual women, their communities and societies, and the world economy. More women in work — particularly in the technology industries that are shaping our collective future — would be good news for all.

Sandrine Devillard is a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. Anu Madgavkar is a McKinsey Global Institute partner.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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