Automation May Not Always Be The Female Worker’s Enemy

A huge social, boardroom and investor issue is the problem of how to increase the mix of people holding leadership positions in both public and private sector organisations is the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) agenda.

Defined by the UK’s leading HR leadership body, the CIPD, as all about building an inclusive environment where everyone feels able to participate and achieve their potential, more and more HR leaders – as well as the rest of the C-Suite – are looking for help on promoting practical solutions in the area.

A growing question on many people’s minds is the role – for good or ill – of trends like automation. A new, pretty hard-hitting study out of analysts McKinsey, in the form of its McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), for example, women could be particularly vulnerable here, as they are more likely to hold jobs that could be at least partially automated – meaning as many as between 40 to 160 million of them globally “may need to transition from their current positions to ones requiring higher-level skills, or else face larger wage gaps and lower chances of career advancement”.

Not everyone agrees automation always disempowers staff, including women, even in areas that tend to have a higher proportion of the fair sex. For instance, a recent piece in US publication HR Technologist draws attention to how automation, used right, can actually increase hiring diversity, arguing that, “In HR, doing your job better might mean spending more time on creative, human-centric tasks that make your company more effective at employer branding and recruitment marketing [so] instead of churning out job descriptions as quickly as possible and laboriously disseminating them through social media ads and sponsored posts, you’d have time to consider the wording of [job] ads and ensure that they’re not reflecting any inherent biases, or misrepresenting your work environment.”

Technologies emerging to help do this, argues the report, include recruitment marketing automation (RMA) that can help automate recruitment marketing activities, as well as RPA (robotic process automation) integration where software “robots” could be trained to perform tasks like posting ads to websites that don’t have advanced scheduling options, or collecting data from those same websites.

“In either case,” claims the author, “the effect is the same: you save time on easy-to-automate tasks, and as a result, you have more time to focus on the things that matter.” And back to the CIPD, whose ‘Festival of Work’ conference seems to conclude that job automation will replace many middle-skilled occupations – but, as Personnel Today reports, that this shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the human workforce:

“AI will bring millions and millions of people that never had access to the job market, many of whom have great talents, but they never had the opportunity to put them on display,” said Garry Kasparov, chair of the Human Rights Foundation and a former chess world champion who competed against IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997, for instance, while the Minister for small business, consumers and corporate responsibility Kelly Tolhurst, predicted that there was a need to ensure that work is “opened up” to everybody, and not just women, either:

“Compared with 2010 there are now more than two million more people aged 50 and over in work, with 9,000 disabled people joining the workforce in the last five years.

“We need workplaces where people can be their best mothers, fathers, carers – and everybody else.”

A new face at the EASY top table

It’s also worth noting that the board of EASY Software UK recently welcomed its new Director of Finance & Operations, Rachel Taylor – which is newsworthy in itself, but also because that MGI report reminds us that women remain under-represented in higher paying, skilled jobs in normally fast-growing sectors like construction and technology.

Taylor has been working for EASY SOFTWARE in the UK for 15 years. In addition to her new direct responsibilities for important business process including billing, facilities management, local HR and revenue management, her skills will also be needed to help to drive a number of in-play strategic programmes at the company.

Taylor’s appointment underlining the company’s long-held support for encouraging women gaining the leadership roles in the technology industry they deserve.

The DM Collaborators Editor

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