How Bridging the AI Skills Gender Gap Will Reshape Our Workforce

The future of AI is not just about technology. It’s about the people behind it.

Written by Janna Salokangas
Published on Oct. 06, 2023
How Bridging the AI Skills Gender Gap Will Reshape Our Workforce
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In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, the integration of AI is a pivotal transformation shaping every industry across the globe. Over the past year, there has been a fundamental shift in the economic landscape. This shift is driving the emergence of a new digital economy, which disrupts existing jobs, creates new companies and introduces unprecedented opportunities.

How we perceive roles, define skills, and envision professional and industry dynamics is changing exponentially. Currently, companies prioritizing AI adoption are experiencing a remarkable 36 percent higher rate of revenue growth compared to their peers. The horizon is filled with exhilarating growth opportunities, calling on both individuals and enterprises to adapt and innovate to thrive.

To lead the way in this changing world, we must address an underlying, urgent issue: the AI skills gender gap.

What is the key to bridging the AI skills gender gap?

We must infuse our talent strategies with intensive upskilling and reskilling programs. These programs, emphasizing real-world experiences, immersive learning, and a hands-on “learn by doing” approach, are essential in shaping a workforce ready for the opportunities of tomorrow.

Read more about AI in the workplaceHow to Build an AI-Ready Workforce

 

What Is the AI Skills Gender Gap?

The AI skills gender gap signifies a disparity between men and women in AI skills — a challenge, but one that offers us a chance to drive real change when addressed head on. The AI skills gender gap is a pipeline issue, meaning that women face systematic obstacles and barriers from early education to job recruitment in STEM fields, particularly in AI. The barriers start from subtle biases in classrooms to a lack of mentorship opportunities, resulting in fewer women pursuing and persisting in AI-related studies and careers.

Talent development, in this context, traditionally relies on narrow definitions of potential, often sidelining those who don’t fit the mold, thus hindering access to vital resources for people from diverse backgrounds. This exclusion affects talented women, especially women of color, who could be the driving force in our AI-propelled future.

Bridging this gap is about equality. But it’s also, as revealed by PwC, an opportunity to seize a $15.7 trillion global GDP by 2030.

Identifying this disparity presents a golden opportunity to bridge the gap, ensuring women can thrive in their careers.

The OECD identifies a pivotal moment ahead, with nearly a billion jobs expected to transform or be disrupted due to generative AI. And even more startling, around 80 percent of these roles are currently held by women, according to recent findings by the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise. With women’s jobs already about to be disturbed, this could be a chance to take control of reframing their roles and harnessing the incredible potential of these women and other underrepresented groups for the AI revolution.

Understanding AI’s impact on business and society is vital for everyone, and it holds incredible promise. Recent Flexjobs survey data reveals that more than half of non-technical men are already using AI in their personal and professional lives, while only a third of non-technical women have done the same. Identifying this disparity presents a golden opportunity to bridge the gap, ensuring women can thrive in their careers and occupy leadership positions.

Our winning strategy? Upskilling and reskilling these women to unlock their full potential in the world of AI. While we should continue to advocate for more women in STEM, this more immediate, pragmatic approach is our key to unleashing limitless possibilities in an ever-evolving tech environment.

 

How Do We Upskill and Reskill?

Upskilling and reskilling are more than just trending terms. They signify that the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow are changing faster than traditional education can adapt. As technology progresses, our workforce must evolve at the same rate. 

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report indicates that by 2025, 50 percent of all employees will require upskilling or reskilling due to increased tech adoption. Moreover, 40 percent of workers will need upskilling or reskilling within a span of six months or less. Yes, we need to offer training, but we also need to ensure  that this training can be promptly converted into tangible value for both businesses and individual career paths.

Traditional mentorship programs and employee resource groups are playing important roles in identifying and nurturing talent, and we should continue to support and expand these initiatives. To create a comprehensive solution, however, we must infuse our talent strategies with intensive upskilling and reskilling programs. These programs, emphasizing real-world experiences, immersive learning, and a hands-on “learn by doing” approach, are essential in shaping a workforce ready for the changes and opportunities of tomorrow.

The National Training Laboratories found that this kind of immersive learning yields a retention rate of up to 75 percent, dwarfing the 5 percent for lecture-based learning. And from a cost-benefit side: Turnover can cost an organization more than half of the salary for entry-level jobs and up to 200 percent for senior executive-level positions. Upskilling leads to less turnover because upskilling employees costs a fraction of recruiting and helps increase retention rates.

Read more about resources for women in STEMWomen in STEM Scholarships You Can Apply to Right Now

 

How We Can Rewrite the AI Skills Gender Gap Narrative

Think about it, tech industry leaders, the logic is clear: Identify and nurture non-technical talent, especially women, and you’ll have a workforce ready for the AI era. Upskill them, and they’ll be empowered to meet, if not exceed, business transformation objectives, ensuring that companies stay agile, competitive and innovative. It’s a win-win.

We need to shift our perspectives. The future of work is about human-AI symbiosis, leveraging both emotional intelligence, abstract thinking and technical proficiency. In this narrative, every woman, technical or not, has a starring role. By bridging the AI gender skills gap, we’re fostering inclusivity and driving unparalleled business growth. Yes, it’s the right thing to do; and it’s the smart thing. The time for action? That would be now. Let’s rewrite this story, together.

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