Women in industries under threat from AI and automation urged to ‘upskill’

Women in industries under threat from AI and automation urged to ‘upskill’

Artificial intelligence and automation are seeping into our daily working lives — and female office workers are among those whose jobs are being taken over by machines.

That’s according to new research provided to ABC News by an Australian teaching organisation that’s urging people to upskill so they don’t find themselves out of work.

Pearson’s research looks at roles that are likely to be automated as technology advances. 

Historically, much of the conversation when it comes to automation has been about robots taking over factory jobs, or even replacing retail assistants in the form of self-service check-outs at supermarkets.

Pearson’s data also shows the less obvious pictures of automation encroaching into office environments, including for medical receptionists, accountants and personal assistants.

a graph showing job losses and breakdowns with gender

“Some of the key (jobs) that are most impacted by technology are things like receptionists, waiters, bank workers, retail sales assistants,” according to Sandya Baratha Raj, director of data science at Pearson.

“And the interesting thing is a lot of these roles are more likely to be female dominated.

“Females are more likely to be negatively impacted by technology than males.”

Take the job of a translator. A decade ago, many of those at national service Polaron were doing work manually for clients by listening or reading to languages and translating this out into text and voice.

Now there’s a plethora of software including voice recognition that does the basics of their job. Many people have used a form of this in Google Translate.

words on screen saying 'i am worried about my job being taken over by robots'
Google Translate is able to do much of the work once done by interpreters.(ABC News: Emilia Terzon)

“I think a lot of translators will become proofreaders,” Polaron’s projector coordinator Tristan Priolo told ABC News.

“It’ll be checkers, as opposed to translators.”

Seventy per cent of Polaron’s translators are women. Some are older women who are less tech-savvy and able to keep up with the industry’s fast-moving technological advances.

“Unfortunately, a lot of our (translators) they are falling behind because they’re not able to keep up or they haven’t chosen to keep up,” Ms Priolo said.

“The industry is competitive. And they can’t necessarily earn as much money from proofreading as they could have with translation.

“But that being said – they could get a lot more done.”

Pearson’s analysis found that by 2032 more than 10 per cent of the work currently done by translators will be automated, and many will be in female-dominated industries. 

Ms Priolo herself speaks Spanish and Italian. She trained at university in translation but is worried about specialising.

“I would love to be able to do that (job). But I worry that there is no stability,” she said.

words on screen saying 'i am worried about my job being taken over by robots'
Polaron’s projector coordinator Tristan Priolo has noticed that many parts of translation and interpretation are now being done by machines.(ABC News: Emilia Terzon)

This all comes as the Federal Government is holding a jobs summit into the future of Australia’s workforce.

Data already reported by ABC News has found artificial intelligence (AI) technology is forecast to replace as much as half of the work that is done today by 2030.

That’s as roles once thought too creative to be consumed by AI — such as illustration through to songwriting — are also under threat from rapid technological advances.

Workers worry they have not been properly trained up for digital advances  

New survey results also shared with ABC News by industry body CPA Australia, a local professional association for accountants, found that one in two workers don’t believe they’re being trained up for digital advances.

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