Women’s Lack of AI Engagement Could Cost Them Their Careers

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At this rate, in a couple of years women won’t be able to blame hiring or pay discrimination on external factors. It will be our own doing. On the first anniversary of Generative AI, a glaring gender gap has emerged: women are engaging less, learning less, using less, and trusting less. This disparity threatens to impede women’s progress in employment, salary, promotions, and even in securing flexible job opportunities across the globe.

Generative AI, spearheaded by ChatGPT, burst onto the scene a year ago. This form of artificial intelligence analyzes vast data sets to learn patterns, which it then applies to generate new content in conversations, texts, or images. Tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, Bard, and Bing make this technology accessible to most of us. In November 2023, numerous studies were released in celebration of GenAI’s first anniversary. These studies focus on the intersection of these tools and the world of work, including job opportunities, candidate profiles, skill development, and utilization.

The findings reveal a troubling trend: women are slower to adopt GenAI tools, less likely to learn how to use them effectively, and fail to grasp the implication. Because there will be implications. Not only are there more jobs offering higher pay and greater flexibility for those proficient in GenAI, but also women predominantly occupy roles that are most vulnerable to GenAI-driven changes. In essence, they risk becoming unskilled in what’s needed and skilled in what’s unneeded. And, most concerning, they seem unaware of this looming crisis.

Let’s delve into the data. Both a report from the Charter Research Institute and an analysis by the job search platform Flexjobs highlight a striking disparity: while half of men have already integrated GenAI tools into their professional and personal lives, only a third of women have done so. This disparity persists when projecting into the future; only half of women plan to utilize such tools, compared to two-thirds of men. What’s more, this gap is underscored by a startling oversight among women: while a third of men express concern about AI impacting their job security, only a quarter of women share this apprehension. Yet, ironically, women have more reason to worry. Contrary to these perceptions, women are in fact more vulnerable to the disruptions AI brings to the workplace. According to a study by the University of Carolina, a staggering 80% of women in the U.S. occupy roles highly susceptible to AI-driven automation. This means that AI could replace between a quarter to half of their tasks. For men, the impact is slightly less, affecting 60% – significant, and they seem to get it.

The impact of AI on the job market extends beyond just employment statistics. LinkedIn’s “AI at Work” report from November 2023 offers a comprehensive analysis of employer and professional interactions on the platform, shedding light on the evolving landscape of work: the skills in demand, the industries affected, the speed of skill adoption, and the changing criteria of employers. One striking insight from the report is the exponential increase in job listings mentioning ChatGPT, which surged 21-fold in the past year. This trend transcends the technology sector, with the report indicating that service, administration, retail, and manufacturing industries are outpacing tech in recruiting for AI-skilled positions.

This shift is mirrored in the candidates’ profiles as well, evidenced by a 75% monthly increase in profiles highlighting GenAI skills. These skills are not strictly technological but are more about proficiency in using AI tools. Prompt Engineering, which involves crafting effective queries for these tools, is an example of a universally needed skill.

But the impact isn’t limited to job listings and candidate profiles. It’s a broader narrative encompassing conversations, interest, learning, and skill development. LinkedIn data reveals a 70% increase in posts about AI tools over the last year, yet only a third of these discussions are initiated by women, highlighting a persistent gender gap. This gap is also evident in learning and engagement: men show 1.5 to 2 times more interest than women in AI-related tools, content, and courses. Furthermore, a survey among U.S. workers found that 64% of men are concerned about their lack of AI knowledge, compared to just 45% of women, suggesting a disparity in awareness of the importance of AI skills.

The reluctance of women to adopt AI tools as quickly as men could jeopardize their earning potential. According to a study by Amazon from November 2023, employers are willing to pay a premium of 35% to 50% more for workers equipped with AI skills. This applies across various fields, including human resources, legal, operations, finance, sales & marketing, and IT. The spike in salaries is partly attributed to the scarcity of skilled professionals, with three-quarters of employers struggling to find candidates with the necessary AI expertise. While gender pay gaps have historically been partly explained by women’s lower participation in high-demand tech roles, the current situation differs significantly. Technical abilities, such as coding, represent only a minor part of the broader challenge of mastering GenAI skills. In fact, other competencies are deemed more crucial, including critical thinking, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, contextual understanding, common sense, adaptability, ethics, and intuition.

However, a fundamental issue persists in the development of the AI field: the workforce shaping AI remains predominantly male, both in academia and the industry. Research from the University of Melbourne indicates that only 12% of researchers and a mere 6% of developers in the AI field are women. This imbalance suggests that while AI systems have the potential to significantly influence society, those designing these systems do not adequately represent the people they are intended to serve. The danger here is that the technologies might fail to address the needs of half the population, further exacerbating existing disparities.

The lack of diversity in AI development reinforces existing inequalities in the output of these systems. For instance, when working on this article, I wanted to offer empowering suggestions for women. I approached my chatbot with the above data and asked for 10 strategies women could employ to alter the current landscape. Initially, the responses were generic, offering broad advice like “embrace lifelong learning” and “develop soft skills.” However, having honed my skills in communicating with chatbots, I challenged it for more creative, practical ideas that could be seamlessly integrated into daily work and life.

This request revealed a gender bias in the AI’s suggestions. It proposed using the tool for tasks stereotypically associated with women, such as planning menus based on contents of pantry, brainstorming children’s projects, and organizing social events. After pointing out this bias, the chatbot adjusted its responses, and I was able to receive the insightful list I sought. Among the suggestions were:

Email Assistance: The chat AI proves invaluable in crafting professional or sensitive emails. For example, when the war in Israel erupted, I needed to request a refund for an international conference payment. The chat was instrumental in helping me compose these emails with the necessary sensitivity and tact.

Career Enhancement Tools: It’s also a fantastic resource for refining professional profiles and resumes. When invited to speak on an English speaking video podcast, I needed a short professional title for the banner. I fed my LinkedIn resume into the chat, which then generated several compelling title options.

Personalized Tutoring: The tools can serve as excellent tutors at any educational level. Prior to interviewing a quantum computing expert for my podcast, I asked the chat to explain the concept of quantum computing to me, tailoring the complexity of the explanation to my needs, whether for a high school student or an industry expert. It even helped me formulate insightful interview questions.

Second Language Conversation Practice: Engaging in conversation with a chat GTP is now a practical way to improve spoken language skills. A friend in Israel recently shared how he uses it to learn and practice conversational English, focusing on expanding his use of idioms. The chat introduces new idioms in each session, listens to how he incorporates them into the conversation, and offers corrections as needed.

These examples showcase how learning to use GenAI tools can save time rather than consume it. Mastery comes with practice, and as you grow more adept, you discover capabilities you previously didn’t have. Even if the concept doesn’t initially excite you, it’s essential to engage, experiment, and recognize that these tools represent the new standard in the workplace. In the evolving job market, the discussion isn’t about AI replacing us; it’s about those who integrate AI into their workflow replacing those who don’t. If women don’t adapt to using these tools, they risk being replaced by men in the workplace. Therefore, it’s crucial for women to take charge, learn to use these technologies, and in doing so, reshape their roles to better align with what they seek in both their professional and personal lives.

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Nirit Cohen

Nirit Cohen is an expert in the future of work, bridging the gap between emerging trends and practical solutions, providing valuable insights for careers, management, organizations, and broader societal systems.

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