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Guiding Trend 4 November Nov 2019 1115 4 November 2019

USA: the advent of machines in the world of work means women are more at risk than men

According to research by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 58% of workers at risk of being technologically substituted in the US are women

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While for many workers the technological transition that the world of work is undergoing is both unnecessarily scary and an opportunity, things are less positive for women workers. This is a study published in March 2019 by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. According to the authors of the paper entitled Women, Automation and Future, 58% of workers at risk of technological substitution in the US are women.

A figure which is even more concerning when one considers that women workers in Italy are only 47% of the employed workforce. Of course, many analyses of the future of labor at the time of algorithms, robots and artificial intelligence have come out. Many proving the contrary. Between optimists and pessimists, in short, it’s better to confront the real data, that combined with gender segregation and the technological trends in place, trace a problematic trajectory that seems to be heading towards further inequality.

According to the IWPR, assuming that automation has (and will) have an impact on all jobs, if for men it will be the lowest value-added and least profitable jobs that are most at risk, for women exposure seems to widen to the full employment scale. The reasons? The biases with which companies approach the female workforce. In the digital sectors, for example, women are paying for a 41% gap in terms of economic return for equal skills and jobs. A paradox considering that, in the US, women employed in activities with a degree of digitization between 51 and 65% are more than half of the total, including men. Things don't get any better when you look at the participation of women in the most promising sectors for the technological transition: from 2000 to 2016, women employed as computer scientists and system analysts went from 31.2 to 29.3%; software developers from 24.4 to 19.8%; support specialist computers from 35.5 to 25.3%.

A forward-looking political choice that, in addition to reducing gender differences, would encourage the presence of women in the so-called Stem disciplines, is necessary.

Even in those areas where technology still seems far from what is now a global upheaval, the outlook is still unclear. In general, well-paid jobs that do not require digital literacy are the preserve of men (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) while women have to “make do” with underpaid and low-wage jobs. (housekeepers, cleaners, etc.). The exceptions are jobs involving caring for people where the impact of technology still seems incapable of replacing the necessary human touch.

To redeems this, investments in terms of active labor policy and greater social consideration would be needed. The same that should support greater female participation in the technological transition taking place. According to a report by McKinsey entitled The Future of Women at Work, greater equity of access in the form of means, support for the family and the study would lead to an increase in the world's GDP of 12 trillion dollars.

In short, it would take a forward-looking political choice that, in addition to reducing gender differences, favours the presence of women in the so-called Stem disciplines, which, according to the UN, reaches only 30% of the total globally. At the Università Politecnico of Milan, for example, according to the first Gender Budget on Graduates Enrolled, women have increased by 8% since 2000, but still account for one in five students. Numbers that even the university world itself would like to improve if you think that, according to Almalaurea, in 2018 Stem students performed better both in terms of graduation grades (103.6 vs. 101.6 for men) and in terms of attendance (46.1% of women took all tests in the expected time compared to 42.7% of males).

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