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Posted at: Mar 7, 2018, 12:34 AM; last updated: Mar 7, 2018, 12:34 AM (IST)TALKING CAREERS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

AI future to give a lead to women?

Gauri Chhabra

On this women's day, women get both a position and a promotion. Courtesy, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Recently, Gartner, a research firm, predicted that artificial intelligence may actually create more jobs than it's expected to eliminate. By 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out. In the following five years to 2025, net new jobs created in relation to AI will reach two million. The new spiral wave of jobs would require augmenting and repositioning of the current skills to survive and thrive. The employment trend may also generate a plethora of jobs just for women. Women can secure their future careers by getting into AI and ML, since these new technologies are going to stay for quite some time. 

Skill required

In order to remain relevant in the new world of work, it will be imperative to hone problem solving and interpersonal skills. As automation stealthily slides in, fields that predominantly are about machines, like construction, factories and machine operation, will become the tortoise in the game. On the other hand, professions that place a premium on the interpersonal skills, like those in the healthcare field, will witness an explosive growth.

Studies say it all

Decades of research show that men and women are equal in general intelligence (IQ), but that isn't the case when it comes to emotional intelligence (EQ). There are subtle differences in men's and women's expression and understanding of emotions that must be explored and understood.

The research conducted by the Korn Ferry Hay Group used data from 55,000 professionals in 90 countries and found that in 11 of 12 "emotional intelligence competencies" women outperformed men. The only category in which women didn't receive better scores was "emotional self-control," where no gender differences were found.

Recently, researchers at Google came to a similar conclusion in a quest to discover what makes the perfect team. They found that groups tend to innovate faster than an individual working alone. But the most important factor in ascertaining a team's success was "psychological safety," a term that describes a climate of trust and respect where individuals feel comfortable being themselves. Such a team might excel at traits like 'conversational turn-taking' and 'social sensitivity." The research suggests that the increasing demand for interpersonal skills is something that favours women. If we think that AI will increase the need for social skills-then this may be beneficial for women, because they really have  an advantage there.

No generalisations

It is also important that work force does not fall into the trap of generalisations and stereotypes. That a woman has a higher EQ than a man should not be an accepted norm. A scientific study on gender and emotional intelligence is not a justification to peddle gender stereotypes.  Even though research overwhelmingly points to women having greater EI, science hasn't determined that these qualities are innate. Women tend to pick up these traits due to their conditioning in society that expects them to be humble and caring.

Mayank Chhabra, CEO White Space Technologies, an IT startup in New Delhi says, "A startup founder must have a high EI in order to use a missed business goal to motivate his team. The ability to listen, collaborate, empathise, and self-regulate are all part of an emotionally intelligent person's nature. I always feel the need for a woman's mind while interacting with my team".

Summing up

Devrath Saha, a student of B.Tech Computer Science Engineering, Alliance University, Bangalore, sums it up this way, "Creativity is a fundamental feature of human intelligence, and a challenge for AI. AI techniques can be used to create new ideas in three ways: by producing novel combinations of familiar ideas; exploring the potential of conceptual spaces, and making transformations that enable the generation of previously impossible ideas. All these require skills of being creative which gravitate towards women."

The 'female' skills are very important to AI, whether it's nurturing, mothering, caring, problem-solving, diplomacy, or critical thinking skills. At the same time, more women should graduate out of Computer Science colleges, more women should occupy C-level positions. It is not fair to dream of a female version of the world without actually encouraging women to be a part of building it.

Only then we can safely say, the future is female...

A Break point for her

In conversation with Venkatesh Sankaran, CEO and founder, Saguna Consulting Services LLC, a management consulting  and technology services firm in Irvine, Southern California that does a lot of work in AI and ML in Healthcare and has offices in India.

With the market trending towards AI, what is the shift that you envisage for the career opportunities for both men and women?

VS: More than the quantity of data our mind can comprehend, we need to focus on the quality of our thinking. In other words, we need to be 'emotionally intelligent'. The numbers that would work in our favor would be our EQ rather than our IQ. All these skills are essentially feminine in nature. Automation could bring about a moment of reckoning for EI skills, which have a long history of being undervalued by the labour market. And that might just mean a moment of reckoning for "pink collar," or women's work. 

With AI, the careers will gravitate towards women. Will that lessen the gender bias, a bitter reality of a few sectors? 

VS:  AI and ML will also neutralise the discrimination aspect. The physical endurance that has given men an edge over women will become inconsequential as drones and robots take over tasks in difficult terrains. As a result, women will get equal opportunities. In sectors like technology, strategic healthcare, government and defense, the percentage of women employees has been less. With AI and ML taking over, requirement for women force will increase, especially in healthcare, which demands humane skills.


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