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The Future of Work Is Female

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Agnieszka Walorska, founder at Creative Construction, spoke about how women may take over the world when men automate themselves away at Codemotion Berlin 2018. Jobs currently performed by the majority of women, where it’s more about adaptability, improvisation, emotional intelligence, and implicit knowledge, will predominate in the future, according to Agnieszka Walorska. Artificial intelligence and robotics will automate highly specialized jobs mostly performed by men.

Unlike the industrial revolution of the 19th century, the technological unemployment of the 21st century will not only affect low-skilled workers - but the highly-skilled white-collar jobs as well, argued Walorska. Men will lose their power thanks to the field that is currently so dominated by men: artificial intelligence, said Walorska.

Men have been trained and rewarded over generations for performing jobs that are predictable, repetitive, emotionless or require physical strength, but robots and algorithms are much better at being predictable, repetitive, emotionless and strong than humans are, argued Walorska. Typical female jobs are the opposite of it, she said, they work in unpredictable environments (think of nurses or pre-school teachers) where it’s more about adaptability, improvisation, emotional intelligence, and implicit knowledge; features machines are still really bad at.

She stated that many of the jobs existing today will still exist in the future - but their profile will change. She mentioned doctors as an example; they will need totally different skills and require different training. A doctor will not need to make a diagnosis or prescribe medication, but rather focus on comforting, explaining and guiding the patient through the process, she argued.

InfoQ spoke with Walorska after her talk.

InfoQ: Why do virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri mostly have a female name and voice?

Agnieszka Walorska: They should fulfill a role of an assistant. And most people when thinking of an assistant think of a women, so we’re reproducing the stereotypes into technology

InfoQ: You mentioned that the work on artificial intelligence is dominated by men. What causes this?

Walorska: There are generally fewer women in tech, not only in AI. First reason is, that generally fewer women decide to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. Why? There is actually quite a strong correlation between gender equality and the gender gap in maths performance in schools. In countries with bad standards of gender equality, boys outperform girls. In countries with a high level of gender equality there is either no difference in maths performance or girls tend to outperform boys. But even in these gender-neutral countries girls/young women are still less attracted to STEM (even if they perform well), than boys/young men.

There still are gender stereotypes resulting in girls having the impression of "not belonging" there, also because there are still few role models. This lacking of role models at universities and in companies is also the reason for the fact, that of men with STEM degree 40 percent work in tech careers while the same is true only for 26 percent of women, which opens the gender gap even wider.

People just simply prefer employing people who are similar to them, and in most companies men are responsible for hiring engineers. Not to forget the hostile environment with sexist jokes that sometimes makes women who get through the recruitment process quit.

InfoQ: How do you expect that robotics and artificial intelligence will impact work and jobs?

Walorska: Estimates of the degree of automation range from about 30 percent to almost 50 percent within the next 20 years. There already is a program generating automated sports reporting in a compelling narrative indistinguishable from human writing, IBM Watson and Google Brain are making diagnoses with an accuracy similar to or better than human, "the robot lawyer" DoNotPay successfully contests 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York, and software learns how to programme itself.

On the other hand, according to a Gallup study from 2017, only 15 percent of employees across 155 countries are "engaged" in their jobs (highly involved and enthusiastic about what they do). So wouldn’t it actually be great if robots and algorithms carried out boring, strenuous, repetitive or dangerous jobs? Of course, even if most people don’t like their jobs - they still depend on them. So we will probably need a quite radical change in our social systems.

InfoQ: What will be the consequences if today’s typical women’s work predominates in the future?

Walorska: The transition phase will definitely be difficult and will surely take a while. It’s rather unrealistic to expect that all the unemployed drivers and construction workers (jobs with a very high probability of automatization) will become nurses and pre-school teachers (jobs with very low probability of automatization). But I see the long-term consequences optimistically: more esteem and better wages for "pink-collar" work, more respect and fair division of unpaid labour (like caregiving to family members), decrease in domestic abuse (men losing jobs and depending on their partner tend to restrain from violent behavior).

InfoQ: What role can unconditional basic income play when it comes to jobs and the labor market?

Walorska: I believe that the future of our society will depend on which opportunities we provide to those who lose their jobs. I believe that we’ll need an unconditional basic income so they can keep a decent life standard, while focusing on education, charity work or other kinds of unpaid work. Also the reduction of working hours for the same salary might be a natural way of dealing with task automation. At the end of the 19th century the average American man used to work 62 hours per week; since the 1960s, this number is down to about 40 hours. I don’t think it’s impossible to get to 20-25 hours by 2050-2060.

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Community comments

  • What to do then?

    by wakin imgen /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    OMG, what do we do? Shall we men all go and kill ourselves since we have no future anyway if we do not want a sex change operation? This article is one of the stupidest things ever said in history ever

  • Re: What to do then?

    by Roland Heimdahl /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Umm... How did you come to that conclusion from that article? As far as I read in the article the article didn't state anything new but rather reinforced what is already a most probable future when you look at what areas AI will replace us.

    I hope you didn't had a meltdown when genders was mentioned...

  • Re: What to do then?

    by Olivier Gourment /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    This looks like a reaction to the headline, which is.. a headline. If you read the article, and think about it, you could come to the conclusion that men should work on developing traits and abilities more associated to women, ie: “adaptability, improvisation, emotional intelligence, and implicit knowledge; features machines are still really bad at”.

  • Thank you

    by Ivan Lahav /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    "Agnieszka Walorska ... spoke about how women take over the world"

    Thank you InfoQ for such an inclusive article.

  • Re: Thank you

    by wakin imgen /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    How is this garbage inclusive? It is female only and male exclusive, I don't know inclusive means female only

  • Stereotype Much?

    by Paul Moberg /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I expect more from InfoQ than bait and promoting stereotypes.

  • Sexist article

    by Steve Macdonald /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    There comes a time when we cross over from fighting for women's rights (which all sane people support) to simply being anti-male. Sweden is the most progressive and feminist country on earth. There is a *larger* discrepancy there in male/female workers in fields like engineering because of the now proven fact that many women do not want to become engineers. It has very little or nothing to do with sexism or barriers, and everything to do with the fact that when given maximum freedom to choose a career, women choose differently than men. Women are already more than 50% of law and medical schools in most Western countries. Trying to force "equality" in engineering fields is futile and extremely sexist (since it does not respect the free choices of women).

    Furthermore it is *boys* who are at great disadvantage in our culture today (especially among minorities). Headlines such as "The Future of Work is Female" are blatantly sexist and potentially highly damaging to e.g., African American boys who currently graduate from college at less than half the rate of African American women.

    Enough of the sexism, whether old-school anti-woman, or new-school anti-male.

  • Re: Thank you

    by Daniel Bryant /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi Wakin,

    I respectfully ask that you re-read the article, as the presenter of the talk (which was titled "The Future of Work is Female") is discussing that men may need to diversify their range of skills in relation to existing stereotypical work roles, we may need to alter recruiting and HR practices (to remove existing bias), and that social services may need to adapt to these changes.

    InfoQ is committed to discussing the very important (and sometimes challenging) topics of diversity and inclusion, and part of this means that not everyone may always agree with all of the content. We do ask, though, that everyone argues their points with respect and dignity towards others.

    Best wishes,

    Daniel
    InfoQ News Manager

  • Re: Stereotype Much?

    by Daniel Bryant /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Thanks for your comment Paul. Although I too may also have been tempted to choose a different title for this piece, this was the title chosen by the presenter of the source talk being reported on in this article, and therefore I understand why Ben chose this: berlin2018.codemotionworld.com/wp-content/theme...

    We aim to provide unbiased reporting across a range of subjects, and although we don't always get everything right, we do try our best to make sure a range of diverse subjects are covered.

    Best wishes,

    Daniel
    InfoQ News Manager

  • Re: Sexist article

    by Daniel Bryant /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi Steve,

    Many thanks for your response, but I do wonder if you're arguing against the headline only, as the article content and Q&A explore the topic in more depth?

    I think it's also a little dangerous to state "the now proven fact that many women do not want to become engineers" based on the research I believe you are quoting (www.thejournal.ie/gender-equality-countries-ste... ?), as there are a lot of additional conclusions that can be taken from this e.g. (from the link)

    "If governments want to increase women’s participation in STEM, a more effective strategy might be to target the girls who are clearly being lost from the STEM pathway"

    I agree with you that we need to promote diversity and inclusion, but I don't read the article as being "anti-male"?

    Best wishes,

    Daniel
    InfoQ News Manager

  • Re: Thank you

    by wakin imgen /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Please focus on technology instead of this kind of junk. InfoQ is not a gender study garbage bin. All gender study are garbage IMHO, period. This one is no exception.

  • Re: Thank you

    by Daniel Bryant /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Hi Wakin,

    Just to state the obvious, you don't have to read every news story on InfoQ. If a piece contains a title that offends your values or beliefs, then I suggest you don't read this, and instead move on to the next story.

    InfoQ is committed to reporting on all aspects of IT. Our stories are chosen and written by a practicing group of professionals, who collectively decide what leads to follow and report on.

    Best wishes,

    Daniel
    InfoQ News Manager

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