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Aparna Saroagi

Aparna is a senior corporate leader and Executive Chairperson, WEE Foundation. She is part of national level policy making committees to promote STEM in women and is working closely with startups and corporates on future skills.

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Why AI and Women will be Best Friends

The future of AI will be female because women possess one very critical skill AI does not: Emotional Intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the new electricity. It is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants like Siris and software that understands natural language. Impressive progress has been made in AI driven by exponential increases in computing power and availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Companies use AI to predict everything from the credit worthiness to preferred cancer treatment. 

Is it a threat or opportunity for women?

In India, 640,000 low-skilled back-office processing and IT support jobs are at risk.

“Artificial intelligence is pushing man and machine closer together. “ What about women and machine? We have to ensure that women don’t just start appearing in the debates, but also that women can benefit from the impacts of automation.

I see huge opportunity particularly for women.

The future of AI will be Female: Emotional Intelligence is the key.

Women excel in one very critical skill which AI do not have: Emotional Intelligence. 3Cs: collaboration, critical thinking, creative thinking capacity would define future leaders:  women are generally better than men at it. Women have intrinsic qualities that can help them in the fluid, digitalized labor markets of the future. 

But first they must have equal access to technical education.

Now is a good time for women to enter en masse. 

Only education focused on technological innovation can adapt women to the demands of the future work market. If the world of work will be emphasizing hard sciences like engineering or mathematics, then now is a good time for women to enter en masse into these areas, displaying in equal measure their intellectual abilities and soft skills.

Technological advances ease day-to-day tasks (at home, for example), and women have more time to think, innovate or train in using new technologies.

I believe that women will play three roles in the new fourth industrial revolution:

The Leaders: These are the women who worked their way up the engineering ladder and possess both the business skills and technical prowess to be respected by their peers.

The Strategists: They include strategic branding experts, high-level communicators, and talent acquisition specialists. Still in the C-suites, they will help companies achieve financial success. 

The Professional Educators and Caretakers: Many women are not wired for technology-based careers, but they still will need to learn how to use some level of AI, machine learning, and robotic support to do their jobs.

By 2030, demand for soft skills will have jumped by another 5 percent, creating 8.9 million new jobs. 

Soft skills will undoubtedly be more important in the age of AI. AI’s strength is in undertaking repetitive, predictable tasks at scale and velocity – so mining big data speedily. But human strengths are about being creative in an original way. The way our brains are wired means that no two humans are the same so AI will never be able to create the associations and nuances that humans bring to a challenge – and that will be a really important differentiator.

Other important differentiators will also be the ability to communicate effectively and to empathize, in other words, using people skills that enable individuals to read complex human emotions quickly.

We’ll see more gender parity, less gender bias and a more equitable workplace where women get to take on more leadership roles. As more technical and operational roles are automated, employers will look to see where there are skills gaps in the business and they’ll lean more towards acquiring the soft skills they need. It won’t necessarily be about replacing men – it’ll be about employing people with the right skills.

Technology has always been good for women in the workplace. Whenever there’s been a fundamental societal shift like in the 1800s, the early 20th century or the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of technology has always been good for accelerating women’s role in the workforce. It opens up new roles and new demand and women have always been able to fill that. So I think AI will accelerate the rebalancing of the workforce from a gender point of view.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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