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What Automation Means for the Gender Gap

Within the next decade, rapid advances in artificial intelligence and automation will radically upend the labor market, replacing millions of jobs with new occupations that will require new technical skills. For women, the challenge is especially acute, because they will still face all the usual obstacles to gender parity at work.

BERKELEY – Recent trends, and the broader history of technological change, indicate that automation will usher in major shifts in labor markets over the next decade, displacing millions of workers but also creating millions of new jobs that require new skills. The McKinsey Global Institute, having documented these changes for several years, has produced a new report examining how automation might affect men and women differently. A key conclusion of the study is that persistent gender disparities in the workplace, as documented in a previous MGI report, will make it more difficult for women than for men to adapt to the coming changes in labor demand, skill requirements, and employment locations.

Based on a sample of six mature and four emerging economies – accounting for around half the world’s population and 60% of global GDP – MGI estimates that the share of women whose jobs will be displaced (20%) is slightly smaller than that of men (21%). Gender differences in the patterns of displacement, however, will be significant.

Both routine physical and routine cognitive tasks are highly automatable. Because men are more highly represented in routine physical occupations (such as machine operators), 40% of their overall job losses will fall into this category. By contrast, 52% of female job losses will be in routine cognitive jobs (such as clerical work), owing to women’s higher representation in this domain.

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