What the future looks like for women in the workplace

Technological advances will benefit the future of work as it stands to remove all the barriers that prevent the increased participation of women in the workplace. With technological advancements, barriers preventing access to work flexibility will be removed. This will enable better transitioning in the workplace, increase innovation and productivity, and open up time to focus on complex projects.

However, the intersection of technology and gender also highlight the inequities that currently exist in the workplace. There is currently an underrepresentation of females in the jobs, education, and sectors producing technology and thus is affecting the function and design of technology. It can affect how society interacts with technology and further entrench gender bias while worsening the workplace inequity that currently exists.

Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

The representation of women in STEM is currently low all over the world. Global statistics show that;

The proportion of female students that enrol for STEM courses in higher institutions is below one-third.

Only 3% of those studying information and communication technology courses are women.

The proportion of women researchers is below 30%

More men have founded start-ups when compared with women.

Women who are in STEM fields receive lower wages, are published less, and their career progression is slower.

In Australia, the proportion of females involved in STEM-related subjects at all levels of education is lower than men, and this directly affects the workforce too. Only 17 per cent of the STEM-qualified population were women in Australia, leading to the Australian government establishing a STEM Equity Monitor to address the underrepresentation. The problem doesn’t end here because women who get into STEM careers still face issues in terms of career progression and retention. This lack of progression has forced many women to leave their STEM career. Coupled with this is the fact that jobs available are usually grant-dependent, short-term contractual and with less flexibility. When thus added to the existing socio-cultural stereotypes and gender biases influencing career choices, it is easy to see why fewer women are involved in STEM jobs.

This absence of women in STEM has significant impacts on the function and design of technology, leading to biases that favour men. The way many technologies are designed makes it to work less effectively and differently for women and other disadvantaged groups such as people of colour, transgender, and people with disabilities. The workplace further worsens these inequalities as it is becoming more reliant on automated technologies. For example, most technological products such as smartphones, voice recognitions, seat belts, cars, and even AI are more compatible with men. All these affect the safety, health, and productivity of women.

While technologies are becoming more prevalent in the workplace, it will most likely affect women the most both positively and negatively due to gender inequality in the workplace.