To close gender gaps, we need more women in emerging jobs

To close gender gaps in the future, we need more women in emerging jobs today

Understanding the skills and jobs that will shape the future economy, and how the rapidly changing world of work will affect women is critical to closing the gender gaps. For the past several years, we have collaborated with the World Economic Forum to examine the state of gender parity: where we are today, what progress we've made, and the factors behind both.

In this year’s Global Gender Gap Report, we found that emerging jobs require skills in new and disruptive technologies where women aren’t represented, a factor that will only further exacerbate gender gaps. But if the right strategies are put in place to increase the number of women with these disruptive technology skills in the workforce, we can ensure that women play a critical role in shaping the future.

The largest gender gaps exist in emerging jobs driving the new economy

We know there are a wide variety of jobs rising in demand globally across all industries and roles. Our analysis identifies eight clusters of jobs that are growing most rapidly, spanning: People and Culture, Content Production, Marketing, Sales, Product, Data and AI, Engineering, and Cloud Computing. 

Tech skills play a critical role in emerging jobs across the board: every emerging job needs basic tech skills.  Nearly half requiring disruptive tech skills like AI, robotics, and cloud computing. These disruptive tech skills will have an outsized impact on the direction of society and the economy, so it is essential for leaders to understand the inequalities that exist in these roles today so that we can prevent them from intensifying in the future.

We found that the largest gender gaps among emerging jobs rely heavily on disruptive tech skills, with the share of women represented across all three clusters below 30%. Based on our analysis, we also find room to improve gender parity by embracing greater diversity in hiring and more inclusive managerial practices (see Figure 2), however our data suggests that those gains, while important, will not be sufficient to achieve parity.

Instead, investments should be made to increase the overall supply of women in the workforce with disruptive tech skills, either through traditional education pathways, or non-traditional reskilling and up-skilling efforts from educators, employers and public sector stakeholders. 

Sub-groups of disruptive tech skills where women have higher representation could expand the pipeline of talent

To discover where these reskilling and upskilling investments would have the greatest impact, we took a closer look at disruptive tech skills to identify sub-groups where women have greater representation and could expand the potential pipeline of talent into other disruptive tech skills clusters.

Our analysis revealed a new, potentially untapped pipeline of female talent: more than half (54%) of workers in genetic engineering skills clusters are women, followed by data science (41%), nanotechnology (30%) and human computer interaction (30%). Because women who work in these fields have the baseline skills and expertise that can be applied in different contexts and to new technologies, with the right targetted reskilling they could more readily transition into emerging roles.

Women aren’t adding disruptive skills as quickly as men

To help us understand where we might be headed, we also looked at the growth of these disruptive tech skills over time. Across all disruptive tech skills, we see that AI, cloud computing, and Natural Language Processing have grown the fastest since 2015 -- but women are not adding these skills at the same rate as men. Women are indeed adding more disruptive tech skills broadly over time, but they are making the greatest gains in data science, genetic engineering and nanotechnology -- which don’t fall as squarely into the emerging jobs that are driving the changes of tomorrow’s economy.

Closing the gap requires a strong pipeline and focus on retention

Making measurable progress toward gender parity in these emerging and rapidly-changing fields is not only critical, it is urgent. These disruptive technologies and occupations are shaping the future -- how we will live, work and communicate in the future -- and the people in these roles are making decisions that will impact every part of our lives. Women must have an equal role in shaping what this future looks like.

To bring more women into emerging jobs, the supply of women with disruptive tech skills must expand. That means ensuring more women acquire disruptive tech skills in the education system, but also that business leaders leverage existing and adjacent talent, in fields like life sciences where women with similar foundational skills have higher representation. Our research shows this approach can have a massive impact: in Europe, training and up-skilling “near AI talent” could double its pipeline of AI talent.

We must also focus on retention, ensuring that once we’ve gotten women into these disruptive tech jobs, they stay. We can do this by leveraging role models and mentors, and making the workplace a more flexible, conducive environment.

Each of these strategies requires leaders to have access to real-time, dynamic and granular insights into where policies and programs are working -- or not -- across different industries, occupations, and skills. Our ongoing partnership with the World Economic Forum seeks to inform decision-making with these actionable insights, and continue to be a trusted resource for leaders working to achieve gender parity and navigate the future of work.

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