Many employees fear that automation will soon replace them. A recent report suggests that women may have the most reason to be concerned.
The study, conducted by New York City-based Revelio Labs and published by Bloomberg in May, examined jobs most likely to be replaced by AI based on a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Filtering the results based on gender indicated that jobs predominantly held by women are most at risk of being replaced by AI. These positions include bill and account collectors, payroll and timekeeping clerks, executive secretaries, word processors and typists, and accounting specialists.
Hakki Ozdenoren, an economist at Revelio Labs, told SHRM Online that generative AI is not programmed to be more inclined to replace workers based on gender. Instead, historic gender-related trends in the job market play a factor.
"Women are underemployed in technical occupations and overrepresented in 'supporting' occupations like administrative assistants," she said. "It happens to be the case that the abilities of generative AI overlapped more with support occupations, exacerbating the existing bias."
Arvind Krishna, the CEO of IBM, recently said in an interview that the tech company is slowing down hiring for roles that can be easily replaced by AI in back-office functions, including HR—a profession dominated by women.
AI Has Already Begun Taking Jobs
The Revelio research supports the growing concerns around the use of AI in employment, according to Christy Kiely, an attorney with Seyfarth in Washington, D.C.
"While AI can be a boon to aims like efficiency and cost-cutting, it can have unintended consequences for the labor market," she said.
AI contributed to nearly 4,000 workers—regardless of gender—losing their jobs in May, according to a new report by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas in Chicago. This total represents about 5 percent of all jobs lost that month, making it the seventh-highest contributor to employment losses in May.
A recent Goldman Sachs study found that AI could eventually replace 300 million jobs globally and nearly 20 percent of U.S. jobs. The report projected that the legal and administrative fields, professions where women are highly represented, could be hit hardest.
The Washington Post recently published an article about two copywriters whose employers or clients decided to leverage ChatGPT to write their material at a cheaper price than paying workers, despite the chatbot's propensity for plagiarizing and delivering nonsensical results.
What Employers Should Keep in Mind
Government entities have begun focusing on the effects of AI in the workplace:
"AI can create problems and legal risk for employers if not used in a considered and controlled manner," Kiely added. "Enforcement agencies are paying attention to this, and employers should, too."
She noted that companies must understand how a particular AI tool functions and should analyze its use for adverse impact on women or other protected groups. These "proactive, privileged analyses are essential to identify areas of potential disparate impact liability," she said.
"Employers may need to consider alternatives to AI if it affects one group more negatively than others," Kiely explained. "And they should implement mitigating measures like retraining and redeployment for impacted workers."
Ozdenoren implored employers to actively seek strategies to leverage the existing talent pool as AI continues to take on tasks that can be automated. By reallocating tasks among female workers, she said, organizations "can effectively harness the skills and capabilities of their workforce in other meaningful and highly productive capacities."