It is important to draw attention to the effect of technology on the employment of women in the future. What can I-O Psychologists do to prepare our field and the organizations for the technological revolution and to keep organizations gender balanced?
I work for a recruitment company, which specializes in Information Technologies. Our job is to reach highly skilled software developers and conduct the initial interviews to determine their eligibility for the position they are interested in.
I hate to say it, but only one of the 20 candidates I have interviewed so far was a woman. Even though most of our clients (who are global leaders in technology) value female candidates and encourage us to find more of them - for several reasons, such as diversity policies, company image, and a balanced work environment - due to the lack of woman candidates in the IT professionals pool, we a have hard time finding woman programmers.
This was what I used to think until I read the article entitled "Women to lose out in technology revolution as robotics threatens jobs, warns WEF" published by the Guardian on January 18th, 2016 (1). This led me to believe that the situation is more complex than I originally thought.
To summarize, the article is based on a report published by World Economic Forum (2) after the 2016 Davos summit. Main highlights of the report are as follows:
Technological advancement is about to turn into a new era called the `Fourth Industrial Revolution` (a.k.a Industrie 4.0). In this era, the aim is automatize every single job as much as possible.
The 4th Industrial Revolution will put 47% of the US Labor in risk (3).
Since most of the admin roles are occupied by women, they will be the first ones to lose their jobs (1,2,4).
Women in developed economies will be more negatively affected than women in developing or underdeveloped economies (4) because similar to other revolutions, the 4th Industrial Revolution will affect first the developed economies.
We Must Take Action for Women
Statistics Canada`s 2011 National Household Survey shows that fifty-two percent of the employed women in Canada occupy nursing, teaching and administrative/clerical roles (5). The same survey reveals that forty-seven percent of the men in Canada work in technology related jobs such as technology developers, engineers or technology salesmen. In other words, in Canada 50% of the employed men work to end 50% of the employed women`s jobs by producing, selling or utilizing technology that replace human work that is mostly performed by women. They do so by developing health related technologies (that measure patient biometrics faster and more accurately), massive online courses (that reach millions of students all over the world) or automation technologies (that answer phones, take notes and generate e-mails automatically for their own survival).
Changing these figures and having a more balanced workforce and more secure jobs are possible. The solution to gender inequality in specific occupations seems to depend on public awareness, skills-based training and company/government policies.
What do these things have to do with I-O Psychology?
While reading this report, all I could think of was that these changes put serious responsibility on the shoulders of I/O Psychologists. Based on the survey output, there are several implications for practitioners:
Within five years, there might be an increasing demand for Change Management Specialists because, in the future, the rate of change in the business world seems to be larger than the rate of change today. We may need to recruit and train more Change Management Specialists.
On the contrary, I expect that as I-O Psychology practitioners, we may need to reduce the time and money that we spend on assessment analytics, because we will have other priorities such as conducting skills analysis and re-training talent that we already have. Aligned with that, Human Resources consultants who are able to do skills and job analysis can be very busy in the coming years to be able to map the skills that organizations possess and need.
Since the number of developers, robotics programmers and engineers in general are expected to increase within the next decade, I-O Psychologists working in the field of recruitment and selection may need to specialize in technical fields to be able to understand and assess the new generation of candidates.
Emotional intelligence, creativity, and communication may begin to be valued to a greater extent than things like the ability to work for long hours or productivity in routine tasks. I think this item is somewhat promising for the rise of women leaders within the workplace.
As I-O Psychologists, we at least have an idea about what to do to prepare our profession and the organizations for the upcoming technological revolution and the problems it will bring. However, the big question remains as to how to best handle the inherent issues of gender outlined above.
Duygu Biricik Gulseren is an international independent consultant with the specialization in the fields of Organizational Development and Employee Selection. So far she executed projects in Canada, Turkey, Germany, Sweden and the USA. She is also working on her PhD in Occupational Health Psychology at Saint Mary`s University, Halifax, NS.
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