AI (Artificial Intelligence) is bringing significant changes to the way we work and live. It might be assumed that as AI is technology-driven, it must be male-dominated, given that research shows that only 26% of those working in technology are female. In a literal sense, this appears to be true, with an even lower percentage (22%) of workers in AI being female.
However, as a whole, the existence of AI presents significant opportunities for women to excel in careers no matter what industry they work in, overcoming gender barriers and unconscious bias, and increasing gender diversity in areas where there is little.
AI creating equal opportunities
AI has the potential to create equal opportunities for women in the workplace at recruitment stage and throughout their career. By automating certain tasks within the recruitment and workforce management process, AI can help eliminate bias in hiring processes, promotions, and performance evaluations.
This isn’t to say that humans will be removed from these processes. AI isn’t designed to overtake all tasks currently carried out by people, but merely to provide a starting point for humans in the processes. With that starting point devoid of gender bias, a more balanced and diverse workforce can be nurtured, where women are recognized and rewarded for their contributions.
Eliminating ‘office housework’
‘Office housework’ - scheduling events and meetings, ordering food, taking notes, organizing leaving presents - are usually thankless tasks that are essential to the smooth operation of a workplace but go unnoticed when it comes to pay rises or promotions.
Studies have shown that women are more likely to be approached to complete these tasks and also more likely than men to accept direct requests to volunteer for them. This isn’t because women enjoy them more or are better at them, but because according to long held gender stereotypes, women are expected to be helpful at work and home, and this is something that as a society we have gotten used to, even if this is unconsciously.
It is estimated that women do 29% more ‘office housework’ than white men. This needs to change, but societal expectations and long held preconceptions take time and courage to overcome. AI can dramatically shorten this process.
AI can automate administrative tasks, often a significant part of office housework, enabling women to focus on more meaningful work that will highlight their capabilities and enhance their development opportunities.
For example, if given a list of the people needed in a meeting, an AI program could find a time that suits everyone, send invites, book the right size meeting room for who is in or out of the office, create a link for a virtual meeting for those not in the office, and if the data on allergies and food preferences were available, even order the right food and drink. These are all jobs that would traditionally have to be carried out by a person, and statistics show that this is more likely to be a woman. This means that everyone, regardless of gender, would have the same amount of time to prepare for the meeting, and with AI potentially taking all the notes, participate equally in the meeting.
Greater presence and visibility of women at strategy level
In a similar way, AI has the capability to automate complex and time-consuming administration or data driven tasks, such as in finance, research and development, healthcare, technology, and data processing.
AI can streamline these processes with much less need for human input – whilst not eliminating the importance of that input. This not only reduces errors and improves efficiency but also opens up opportunities for those carrying out those tasks to take on more strategic roles, where they can leverage their expertise to drive informed decision-making without having to work more hours.
AI takes on the tasks behind ED&I
A 2021 report found that women are taking the lead on employee wellbeing and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, even though DE&I initiatives are presented as organizational successes. This might be because women place more value on ED&I than men in the workplace, however this doesn’t mean the burden should fall on them alone, especially as over 50% of men still believe that ED&I is a positive thing and with employers happy to publicize positive outcomes.
Assessing and analyzing existing attitudes to ED&I and what could be improved is a lengthy task, especially in large organizations. This is a task that could be carried out by AI. Other tasks that could be taken on by AI include analyzing diversity in imagery and text throughout an organization, looking for patterns in lack of diversity, communications, and as technology develops the sky is the limit in what could be achieved.
With these manual and monotonous tasks covered, focus can be placed on strategies and initiatives to overcome challenges to gender equality. This will not only free up time, but present ED&I as an enjoyable task to be a part of for all.
AI promoting a more diverse workforce
AI presents a unique and exciting opportunity for women to overcome gender barriers; creating equal opportunities, enhancing diversity, and empowering women in industries currently dominated by men, perhaps even the AI industry itself.
It is unlikely that AI will ever achieve everything a person can or that there will be no place for the human touch at any stage, so by accepting the obvious advantages to AI to diversity, we are not risking jobs.
We’re finding new potential pools of talent in not only women, but also other underrepresented groups, which in turn can help organizations reduce talent shortages.
As we embrace AI, let’s ensure it paves the way for a more inclusive future for women and all underrepresented groups everywhere.
To read more on ED&I initiatives at Guidant, click here
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