Women face significant risk in losing jobs in technology-driven workforce
By Isanella Patoir
As technology advances, women are likely to be displaced and pushed into unemployment, Dr Dianna Glasgow, University of Guyana economic lecturer, revealed during a virtual discussion on Wednesday.
The discussion was facilitated by the Women and Gender Equality Commission and focused on the future of work and what it means for women.
According to Dr Glasgow, with economic shocks and the ongoing pandemic, the gap between men and women in the labour force widened. And because of women’s position in the workforce, they tend to be more affected whenever there are shocks.
“Very important for women is that science and technology jobs are likely to be more male-dominated, so it means women are going to be further displaced,” Dr Glasgow stated.
With the pandemic, came digitisation and the rise of other forms of employment such as short term, independent contracting, and self-employment.
But even with this virtual platform to conduct business and gain new skills, women still face limitations with access to the internet and other resources.
According to the World Economic Forum, men stand to gain one job for every three jobs lost to technology while women are expected to gain one job for every five or more jobs lost.
“So, a man is more likely to be resilient in the labour market, to bounce back to pursue other opportunities successfully but a woman, because of the socio-cultural norms and traditional challenges that we face, women are more likely to be displaced,” Dr Glasgow said.
She added that the women in the labour force will further be affected in Guyana with the country’s development and the demand that is going to come with the oil and gas sector.
It is also anticipated that men will benefit more than women in this sector and Dr Glasgow believes that the changes in the agriculture sector will also see more men dominating.
Female small-scale farmers and agro-processors will find themselves displaced because of traditional hurdles that limit their access to finances to expand into large-scale operations.
Dr Glasgow explained that with return migration, women will face some degree of displacement in the local labour force.
Importantly, there has been an upsurge in women undertaking entrepreneurial opportunities. According to Anije Lambert, an entrepreneur and researcher, there has also been an increase in women-owned businesses in Guyana.
Meanwhile, Dr Paulette Henry, a social worker and one of the commonwealth’s wise women of the world, said that though there is progress for women in the labour force, it is not being done fast enough.
“There is a way to go until women enjoy the same benefits and rights as men.
“We know that there is movement, we know that things are happening, but is it happening fast enough and how are women going to be benefiting?”
Dr Henry revealed that when it comes to a decent job with a decent salary, women still face challenges.
“We are largely located in those wholesale and retail sectors, those home-related hospitality services, education and so.
“Those are the services where they are lower paid and where if things are to go under when people cannot afford hospitality, education and when these sectors go under, women are affected,” Dr Henry said.
According to her, more than 11 per cent of women in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries tend to perform routine jobs which are at risk of being replaced by technology. Dr Henry said this means that 180 million women are at risk of being replaced.
To counter this though, policymakers and the business community must encourage more women and girls to get involved in the STEM field.
“Because of the changing dynamic in terms of technology and digital world, women have to look at reskilling and upskilling and be ready for that,” Dr Henry said.