The pandemic has mounted new obstacles to building inclusive and prosperous economies and societies around the world. This is evident in every sector of our community and particularly in K12 education. Pre-existing gender gaps have amplified the crisis asymmetrically between men and women, even as women have been at the frontlines of handling the problem as essential workers. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) new report, the hardest-hit areas by lockdowns are rapid digitalization and those where women are more frequently employed. Coupled with the additional pressures of providing care in the home, the crisis has stalled progression toward gender equality in several economies and industries.
Today more than ever, we need gender-sensitive recovery strategies for STEM and AI education critical in making up grounds lost during 2020 to prevent long-term scarring in the education stream.
We have an unparalleled opportunity to build more resilient and gender-equally economies by investing in inclusive AI education, creating more equitable systems, advancing women’s rise to leadership in AI, applying a gender lens to reskilling and redeployment, and embedding gender equality into the future of work, according to the report.
Labor markets continue to show persistent trends towards the segregation of occupations along gender lines. Professions in technology and, in particular, computing have proven to be prime examples of how organizational and professional culture may cement gender segregation.
The recent WEF report has also demonstrated that the challenge of the number of women who study in STEM fields – what has often been termed a “supply problem” – can be seen as a manifestation of broader biases that inform females’ job-switching behavior workers. Gendered signals from the labor market – the unique experience of earning in STEAM classes and working in technology fields – go a long way toward shaping the professions’ potential employee base, making them distinctly male.
Future gender gaps are likely to be driven by job segregation in emerging roles. Occupational differences are a key explanatory factor of wage inequality as the merging roles with lower female representation see higher than average remuneration. Research has suggested that functions common among low to middle-income women are likely to be disproportionately represented among jobs destroyed by automation. Without opportunities for re-employment and redeployment into emerging positions, the share of women in the labor market could shrink further. We hope that the new measure presented can be a critical tool to monitor and close gender gaps in emerging professions.
As the pandemic is pushing back gender equality by a generation, AI education in K12 can undoubtedly be part of the solution to narrow this gap.
The recent WEF report shows as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.
Based on the report’s finding, sectors with historically low representation of women are also those with fast-growing “jobs of tomorrow. According to cloud computing information, women only made up 14% of the workforce in engineering, 20%, and data and AI, only 32%. It is more challenging for women to change into these emerging roles than men.
Women are not well represented in the majority of fast-growing roles, which means we are storing up even more significant gender representation problems as we emerge from the pandemic. These roles play an essential part in shaping all aspects of technology and how it is deployed globally. We must have women’s voices and perspectives represented at this foundational stage, significantly as digitization is accelerating. We all need to build diversity, equity, and inclusion into their plans for recovery. Skills-based hiring and education are essential if we are going to make our economies and societies more inclusive.