Women, Automation, and the Future of Work

Source: Ariane Hegewisch, Chandra Childers, Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, IWPR #C47, March 13, 2019

From the executive summary:
From driverless cars to factories operated by robots and stores with self-checkout systems, automation and technology are changing the way we perceive and do work. But how do all these technological changes affect men and women differently?

According to Women, Automation, and the Future of Work, an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report, technological change will affect men and women differently in a number of ways. The first study of its kind in the United States, this report estimates the risk of automation across occupations by gender and presents a comprehensive picture of what we know—and what we don’t—about how the future of work will affect women workers.

This study finds that discussions about technological change and the future of work must include gender as part of the analysis. That’s because the jobs most commonly held by women—cashiers,secretaries, and bookkeeping clerks, for example—face some of the highest risks of becoming automated in the future. And while men are not immune to the risks of technological change, women are even more likely to work in jobs where technology and automation threaten to displace them.

This report examines not only the impact of these technological shifts on the quantity of jobs but also the quality of jobs in the future. Drawing on occupational projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and recent research on the potential for automation across occupations, IWPR researchers developed a Future of Work Database to analyze the potential impact of technological changes on:

■ the number of jobs
■ the nature of work and how it’s done
■ the quality of work
■ the future of work and family

By increasing our understanding of the potential impact of these technological changes, we can create more gender-aware policies that will increase equality and the quality of jobs in the coming decades.