Could AI be the Cure for Workplace Gender Inequality?

As AI be the cure for workplace gender inequality, based tools become integrated into roles across levels and industries

Gender differences are a sensitive topic and we address them in this article with trepidation. There is a fine line between understanding commonalities and stereotyping, and the debate about nature versus nurture is robust. But whether you believe that men and women, on average, have different types of brains or that gender differences are a result of cultural norms and condition, the real-world results are similar, so AI is the cure for workplace gender inequality and excel in different dimensions and take on different roles in the workforce. By no means does that suggest that men and women are not equal — just different.

Many researchers are reporting, and our research confirms, that AI is the cure for workplace gender inequality which will reshape our economy — and the roles of workers and leaders along with it. Jobs that don’t disappear will see a significant shift as the tasks that are easily and inexpensively accomplished by robots become automated. The work that remains will very likely focus on relating. We believe that AI is the cure for workplace gender inequality and can help level the playing field. It will do so, we think, by replacing many roles and functions where men typically dominate.

Jobs That Currently Demand High EQ Are Dominated by Women:

Women predominate in jobs that involve relating, caretaking, and providing services, making up more than 80% of the country’s school teachers, nurses and home health aides, social workers, secretaries, and administrative assistants. Men outweigh women in fields that tend to be physical, STEM- and finance-related, and more isolated rather than relational, such as truck drivers, janitors, laborers, and software developers. Men are also better represented in higher-paying, often analytical fields, such as law, medicine, and engineering.

One perspective on the ways that different skill sets play out at work is the empathizingsystemizing theory, which measures people’s inclinations to empathize (identity, understand, and respond to the mental states of others) and to systemize.

EQ Is Likely to Become a Critical Job Differentiator in More Roles:

Differences in current skills and roles mean that the evolving AI be the cure for workplace gender inequality in the economy is going to affect men and women differently.

We all know that changes due to AI are imminent and that some roles will likely disappear over the next decade. This will not be limited to any particular industry or pay grade. Robots will replace not only truck drivers and stock pickers, but also radiologists, consultants, and financial planners (all of which are traditionally male-dominated roles).

Research has suggested that these relating skills, where men lag women, will put men at a workplace disadvantage in the AI be the cure for workplace inequality. They won’t be as successful as women unless they embrace these differentiator skills of empathizing, mentoring, and engagement.

Three Steps to Prepare for the EQ Revolution:

Given this prognosis, all of us men, women, and the organizations we work with need to pay real attention to these often-neglected EQ skills.

Although we tend to think of relating skills as innate and static, this is incorrect. Just like any job skill, a person’s emotional intelligence can be improved with some effort. Here are three steps to get started:

  • Figure out what you’re working with:

Effective people have low EQ but have no idea they need to improve because they simply haven’t paid attention to the subtle indicators from their peers. Most of us are very hesitant to criticize someone’s interpersonal skills directly because such feedback can be perceived as an unwelcome critique. This means that you should pay attention to couched feedback you’ve been given, especially comments.

  • Admit to yourself the importance of EQ:

Employees and managers are more often trained and assessed on “systemizing” skills — perhaps because they are simpler to measure. For example, doctors are well trained in identifying and treating diseases. But they are not well trained on personalizing treatment to suit a patient’s preference and lifestyle, nor on influencing patients to take steps such as changing diet or exercise. If you want to grow your EQ, you must first change your mental model about what is important in your work.

  • Practice and train your EQ:

Identify the parts of your job that allow you to practice understanding, coaching, encouraging, and influencing others — these are the parts of your role likely to persist over the next decade — and direct your energy to these interpersonal opportunities. Find a coach who will give you honest feedback and mentoring, or find a training program. We naturally take these steps with many job skills but are hesitant to do so with EQ for two reasons: None of us want to admit our EQ needs work, and we have the idea that our EQ is inborn and unchangeable. We are wrong on both accounts.

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