For six years running, Connected World has celebrated female executives who are helping to drive the IoT (Internet of Things) industry forward through its annual Women of M2M awards. And while more women are earning key positions within the industry and more young women are entering the field, there is still a gender gap in the technology space. Meanwhile, the nature of work across all industries is changing.

The digital era, characterized by automation and advances in robotics, machine learning, and AI (artificial intelligence), has transformed the relationship between humans and machines. And while this has allowed businesses to automate and, often, get work done more quickly and efficiently, it has also given rise to many questions about the future of work. To what extent will machines displace humans? Many are also questioning how this will affect various segments of the workforce. For instance, how will the changing nature of the workforce, thanks to technologies like automation, affect women in the workplace? Will it close or widen the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields?

A research paper published by IMF (Intl. Monetary Fund) suggests that in general, female workers face a higher risk of automation compared to male workers (11% of the global female workforce compared to 9% of the global male workforce). This reality is due to the fact that, on average, women perform more routine tasks than men across all sectors and occupations, and these are the tasks that are most prone to automation. In fact, IMF estimates that 26 million female jobs in 30 countries are at a “high risk” of being displaced by technology within the next two decades. IMF characterizes “high risk” as facing a 70% or higher likelihood of being automated.

Here in the U.S., many people are worried about the idea that machines can perform some tasks and jobs better than humans. However, in the long run, technology will create new jobs to replace the ones lost to automation—and this is true in both tech and non-tech industries. The question is whether these jobs will be available to populations most vulnerable to job displacement due to automation?

Job growth is particularly anticipated in STEM fields, where women are currently underrepresented, but this is changing. IMF says the digital transformation across industries will likely lead to more flexible work conditions, which could benefit women. Increased interest and investment in bringing more young women into the fold, so to speak, will also help at the grassroots level. The more women who enter the field, the more will continue on to make their mark, potentially in leadership roles.

However, attracting women to the field isn’t the only hurdle in closing gender gaps in technology. Women must be supported and encouraged to stay in STEM fields for the long haul. Mentoring opportunities and female role models in positions of leadership, as well as a commitment to flexible and fair working conditions for men and women who have families and equal opportunity for pay raises, promotions, and professional development will all go a long way toward attracting and retaining talent in STEM fields. As we head into 2019, it is the hope of Connected World that we continue to encourage a more diverse workforce and that we continue to celebrate the women who are working hard to encourage others to champion professional development and hard work. So please take the time to nominate the women you know for our annual women in technology awards. It’s only when we work together to celebrate each other do we promote continued success for generations to come.

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