A Labor Day Dream: The Future of Work Starring Women Leaders

In honor of Labor Day next week, the national paradox of a day off work to salute a day of work, we can look ahead to what is projected as the future of work in this country.The world of work is changing due to artificial intelligence—robots—and the industry is notably lacking in female leadership. But many are working on changing that outcome.wo[bctt tweet=“Work is changing due to artificial intelligence, an industry notably lacking in #femaleleadership” username=“takeleadwomen”]Because the science and tech fields are labors of love for millions of women, we tout new research and specific solutions for filling the pipeline for women in STEM and nurturing the careers of women already working in the fields.Particularly in the expanding field of artificial intelligence (AI), without the inclusion of women in the creation and execution of the growing industry, gender bias will be replicated and artificially enhanced. “A report from consultancy company AlphaBeta suggests machines will take over two hours a week of the most repetitive manual tasks by 2030,” according to ABC.“A Narrative Science survey found last year that 38 percent of enterprises are already using AI, and that number will grow to 62 percent by 2018,” according to Samantha Walravens and Heather Cabot writing in Forbes.Lolita Taub, a venture capitalist at K Fund, a €50 million early-stage tech VC firm in Madrid, and a member of the Cognitive Computing Consortium, told Forbes: “AI will pass on the biases of its creators and the data its creators feed it. If we want there to be a woman’s perspective in the new world of AI, we need women to be part of it – and women of diverse backgrounds at that.”“AI, the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, is rapidly becoming the most important and disruptive technology in society, according to analysts and industry representatives across the globe. Oxford University research estimates over half of all human work will eventually be taken over by machines,” writes Taylor Fang in WomensENews.“’One of the most critical and high-priority challenges for CS [computer science] and AI’” is the shortage of women and minorities, states the National Science and Technology Council’s report ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence,’”Fang writes.“Of particular concern to ethicists and technologists is gender bias. Social scientists have known for at least 20 years that people project their existing gender biases onto computers, including machines with very minimal gender cues,” Dorcas Cheng-Tozun writes in Christianity Today.“Today, the majority of AI interfaces we interact with—from the navigator voice in GPS to moving and talking sexbots—are feminized through name, form, and other characteristics. This is by no means random; studies have found that people generally respond more positively to female voices. But these interfaces can also reinforce and amplify gender stereotypes, like the subservient speech patterns of Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual assistants.”Yet there is an option for a different future with new research pointing to the positive influence of women mentors for peers in the field. This aligns with the Take The Lead mission to “prepare, develop, inspire and propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positi0ons across all sectors by 2025,” according to Gloria Feldt, president and co-founder of Take The Lead.A new study from University of Massachusetts at Amherst shows that female mentors are key to encouraging women in STEM fields, according to CNN.[bctt tweet=“Female mentors are key to encouraging #WomenInSTEM fields” username=“takeleadwomen”]“The study paired female engineering students with female mentors during their freshman year — and 100 percent of those students stayed in the major for their second year. The research suggests that mentors are especially important during moments of transition: Starting college or entering a first job, for example.”“’It’s not only about growing the pipeline — then you add on the component of being a queer woman and where do you see yourself at the CEO and COO level — it’s ‘how do you get connected to those people?,’’” Michelle Skoor, who directs programming for Lesbians Who Tech,” told CNN.“Female mentors promoted aspirations to pursue engineering careers by protecting women’s belonging and confidence. Greater belonging and confidence were also associated with more engineering retention,” the study shows.To that end, Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani, who created the organization in 2012, told People recently that her program is expanding exponentially.“Girls Who Code has already introduced 10,000 girls to coding through after-school and summer programs. The organization took steps to expand that reach to one million girls with the launch of a Girls Who Code publishing program and the release of two new books — an official coding guide, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, and the first book of the GWC fiction series, The Friendship Code by Stacia Deutsch,” Sam Gillette writes.Yoli Chisholm, chief marketing officer of the app, STEAM Role, says the company is on a mission to connect role models for youth in underserved communities to “accelerate the diversity pipeline for companies.”Students and early career professionals in STEAM fields (the added A is for arts) can follow career roadmaps provided for inspiration and guidance in their careers, while corporations can use STEAM to develop a diverse pipeline.That work early on is needed. A recent study by Techmergence shows that female leadership is absent in AI and machine learning or ML.“Technology stack (as an industry) has a notable lack of females, both in top-level female presence and C-level roles, across sub-industries and the broader industry. Our finding of 18 percent female C-levels across AI/ML companies is on par with other similar findings across industries,” writes Lauren D’Ambra Faggella.“Perhaps not surprisingly, by sheer number alone CEO was the most popular role for females and males overall—a title that almost all companies include as part of their executive team—with 156 individual CEOs in total. When compared to the whole, females hold only 12.82 percent of the CEO positions across industries. Ultimately, there was no one C-level role in which females dominated over males. The largest proportion of females in C-level roles was 60 percent CHOs (human resources/staff/talent),” Faggella writes.“This data, considered on its own, points to stark gaps in female C-level presence in AI and ML companies across industries.”As more tech companies give lip service and devote conference time to building the diversity pipeline to include more women and people of color, they are often missing the boat, writes Katherine Zaleski, president and co-founder of PowerToFly.com., in the New York Times.“But what the executives don’t give as much thought to are some of the simplest determinants of how successful a company will be in hiring diverse candidates. Will women have any input in the hiring process? Will the interview panels be diverse? Will current female employees be available to speak to candidates about their experiences? Many times, the answer to each of these questions is no, and the resistance to make simple changes in these areas is striking,” Zaleski writes.Encouraging, mentoring and guiding young women in STEAM, STEM —and AI fields in particular— may be the answer to fixing the gender gap for work of the future.[bctt tweet=“Encouraging & mentoring young women in STEAM may be the answer to fixing the #gendergap” username=“takeleadwomen”]A new program at Stanford University has a mission to do just that. 

Molly Reynolds, co-founder of The Unicorn in the Room, writes in Inc., “Technology is literally taking over our world and the industry is incredibly attractive to both men and women, but we must ensure women want to take part. This is a goal both women and men working in technology should equally aspire to achieve. Creating job-shadowing programs at your company and volunteering to teach outside the classroom, are just a few ways inspire the next generation girls in tech.”
Reynolds adds, “Yes, there is a greater presence of women in tech but being the only woman in a room at a young startup, or walking into a tech juggernaut and seeing the only woman in the joint sitting behind the receptionist’s desk should be alarming; yet, it’s still happening even while most businesses are on full diversity alert.”
Working to change that will not only alter the lives of those in the STEM fields, but alter the nature and future of work for everyone.
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