‘There will be winners and losers:’ Women workers are far more vulnerable than men to the impact of A.I. and automation, study finds


Artificial intelligence is widely predicted to impact virtually every business sector—and by extension, every workplace. Roughly 4.9 million jobs in the U.S. may see changes by 2027 due to the technology, while another 5.9 million jobs could be created, a study by software company ServiceNow predicted earlier this month. But the tech, which has seen a surge in attention following the introduction of generative A.I. tools like ChatGPT, will likely disproportionately impact women in the workplace, a separate study suggests.

Eighty percent of working women are engaged in occupations that are at risk of being disrupted by A.I.—versus 60% of men, according to the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. The difference between genders is particularly stark given that men outnumber women when it comes to full-time employment in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau

“The reason more women than men are exposed to A.I. automation is straightforward: A higher percentage of working women are in white-collar jobs (~70%) vs. blue-collar ones (~30%) while for men the ratio is roughly 50/50,” wrote Mark McNeilly, marketing professor and author of the study.

The report uses Goldman Sachs research from March as a reference for the 15 occupations that will be most affected by A.I., including roles in management, engineering, and legal. The study then considers the number of people employed in these industries and breaks down those totals by gender. 

The findings show that nearly two-thirds of jobs will be affected by generative A.I., with anywhere between 25% to 50% of the tasks in these jobs being exposed to automation. Goldman Sachs predicted earlier this year that nearly 300 million jobs globally could be impacted by A.I.

Fears about losing jobs to A.I. have been rampant in recent months—as many as 4,000 jobs were lost in just May from A.I. adoption, according to recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Gender-based impacts of the tech are largely explained by the type of roles women and men currently occupy. But it isn’t all bad news—according to Goldman Sachs, an increase in the use of A.I. in the workplace could result in a 7% boost to annual global GDP, which means an increase in economic activity by creating more demand and expanding jobs.   

“Whether the changes are good or ill for individual workers will depend on their occupation, firm, individual capabilities and ability to adapt. Some will adjust better than others. There will be winners and losers,” McNeilly wrote.

Other reports have backed the finding that women are more vulnerable to the impact of A.I. in the job market. For instance, Revelio Labs, a workplace analytics firm, analyzed roles that may be most affected by powerful generative A.I. tools by potentially taking on tasks or entire jobs that exist today. Some of these jobs include those of interpreters, programmers, and telemarketers. Women hold a whopping 71% of those jobs that are exposed to A.I., Revelio found. 

“While A.I. tools like ChatGPT are not trained to replace a specific demographic, the differential effect of A.I. comes from the uneven distribution of gender across the labor force,” Revelio’s economist Hakki Ozdenoren said in a post last week. “For example, women are underrepresented in technical occupations and overrepresented in “supporting” careers like administrative assistants. It happens to be the case that A.I.’s abilities overlap more with support occupations.”

The study goes one step further to show that occupations impacted by A.I. employ more people of color. A total of 32.9% of people of color have jobs that are most exposed to A.I. The silver lining is that the number is only slightly above the U.S. average of exposed jobs—31.6%.

Ozdenoren highlights that even though several jobs are exposed to A.I., the tech could reallocate labor to more productive work.

“A.I. tools can automate mundane and repetitive tasks performed by Clerks, freeing them up to engage in more productive and fulfilling aspects of their jobs,” he said. 

A.I.’s potential to cause a major upheaval in the workplace has prompted many to consider what the tech holds for the future. Companies are experimenting with providing A.I. tools to employees. Some of those experiments have yielded great success in the past as it improved employees’ pace of work by 35% and their productivity by 14%. Consulting firm Accenture predicts generative A.I. could impact 40% of the working hours of employees—but that could help enhance the outcomes in the workplace.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.