By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
I was waiting in line to board the aircraft along with the fellow passengers. But I suddenly realized that all other passengers were gazing at someone. It was the pilot of the aircraft who was walking towards the plane — a woman pilot. It seemed she was used to the look s of passengers who had suddenly stopped speaking among themselves, as if under a spell. They looked at her with a mix of apprehension, curiosity and awe as she stepped into the cockpit. And suddenly the spell was broken. I heard many people talking about whether women pilots were better? Opinions were divided. Some claimed women pilots were likely to be more skilled. Several others were skeptical about women flying aircrafts.
But no matter what you say or feel, I thought to myself, flying is foremost associated with magnificence, no matter who is flying, a man or a woman. And it’s about technology and it doesn’t matter who is more skilled at operating it. Who knows if Robots will start flying planes in the future?
Humans have always wanted to do more. It is no surprise that the Olympic motto is also Citius Altius, Fortius — faster, higher and stronger is the driving motive behind human progress and innovation. We first tried animal power to augment our capacity. Then we tried to move to steam and electricity to replace animals. And now we are looking at high tech to replace everything else. This time we have robots powered by deeper capacity to learn that is replacing humans.
The job market has clear divides. The army is dominated by men. Truck drivers are overwhelmingly male. 95 percent of the 3 million truck drivers in the US are male. The percentage in India may be closer to a 100 percent (in favor of male drivers). In case of secretaries and administrative assistants, the percentage is heavily skewed in case of women. In case of mining and farming, men make up a very large percentage of the workforce. 97 percent of jobs in construction and carpentry are held by males. But a high percentage of these jobs are going to be replaced by robotics in future.
Mercer’s studies on the representation of women in various jobs shows that 62 percent of P&L roles go to men. Three of the five high-growth job fields — management, computer and mathematical, and architecture and engineering — have low female representation today and are unlikely to provide much opportunity for women in the near term.
Who is more at risk?
The rule of thumb is that machines have a great depth of capability in only one or two areas. The microwave cannot wash your clothes, nor can the washing machine make your coffee. Humans on the other hand can do many things. The carpenter can drive a car and he can even teach your nephew/niece some soccer. This is the core of the disruption in the job market.
The jobs that follow the “faster, higher, stronger” principle will progressively be taken over by machines. It is easy to program the robots to do something repetitively and do it blindingly fast. Not only can robots do the work faster than humans, they do not have Monday morning blues. They do not seek vacation days nor do they object to working on weekends. They can go through mountains of data in a moment and identify anomalies. They are better legal assistants than humans. They make better radiologists than humans. Any job that is faster for machines to carry out makes it uneconomical to be left to humans. That means we will have many of these jobs carried out by robots replacing humans – men to be precise.
What can the machine ‘not’ do?
Jobs that involve dealing with ambiguity, human emotions and dealing with changing rules are still best left to humans. That is what Daniel Pink was referring to in his book ‘A Whole New Mind – Why right brainers will rule the future.’
He states that the future belongs to those who are creative and work well with loose or no structures. Those who have high emotional intelligence will have an edge in the job market. Wait, aren’t these the exact reasons why there aren’t enough women in the boardroom? Only 28 percent P&L roles have women. As women step off to have children and raise families, they have to keep juggling their career on the side. When it becomes too hard, they give off their careers to raise children, never to come back.
In the future, as structured employment drops and the gig economy becomes the dominant form of work, maybe gender representation will change. Women will have the upper hand as robots will start to take the ‘faster, higher, stronger’ jobs. The job of reading millions of images to reach a diagnosis may be done by machines, but we will need doctors who know how to read human emotions and decide the best manner in which one can convey the news about the tumor being malignant. If trading is done by machines (which it already is), then we will need humans to advise us about investment choices that go beyond analysis of numbers.
Which skills matter most?
Complex problem-solving: Problems have become too complex to be solved by an individual. It needs people who have a multi-disciplinary lens and the ability to work in diverse teams to solve problems. Nike, designing a self-lacing shoe would mean Nike working with athletes, designers, electrical engineers, chemistry professors and sports coaches.
Working in diverse teams: Human skills fall into five categories, which include self-control, productivity, wisdom, perception, and influence. The knowledge worker is going to be replaced by the relationship worker — Emotionally!
Will women then have an advantage in the jobs that machines will not do? If so, we have to understand how women want to navigate their careers.
What women want?
Here is what research from YSC and KPMG discovered about managing women’s careers:
- Equally Ambitious: Women tend not to show the same level of ambition early but this exponentially lifts by the time they reach executive levels.
- Different Rhythms: Women seem to make more lateral moves than men over the same time span with a mid-life career surge.
- Flexible Arrangement: Women prefer individual autonomy to create a working pattern that accommodates the demands of their lives.
- Authentic leadership: By the time women reach executive committee level, they are far more comfortable being themselves as opposed to self-managing to meet gender expectations.
Developing more women leaders
Reassess career options for women, particularly when male peers are more overt about aspiring over a longer range. More frequent lateral moves can result in senior female executives having broader experience than senior male executives with implications for their selection onto Boards. An intrinsically challenging role and the personal support of direct line management can be their preferred operating mode. So diverse executive teams perform better when leaders can be themselves.
The new world will throw open new opportunities. Men and women alike are back at the starting line together. And organizations would do well by not leaving half of the world out of the talent pool.