Discriminated by algorithm? The future of work for women looks stark unless action is taken now

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RSA

Publication date: 

27th Aug 2019

Women have borne the brunt of austerity - but they may face the double whammy of job losses under automation, too.

Women face a barrage of threats to their economic security, according to a report from the respected RSA think tank. From Precarity to Empowerment: Women and the future of work’, by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and the Women’s Budget Group, is part of a submission to the Commission for a Gender-Equal Economy, a ground-breaking investigation into the role of women in our economy and society, led by a group which includes economist Ann Pettifor.

Female workers are significantly more likely to experience financial precariousness, are struggling to save enough for retirement, and fear the impact of Brexit on living standards more than men, the authors warn.

In an assessment of new trends in the economy, the RSA also urge government and employers to get tough on new forms of inequality – including ‘discrimination by algorithm’ – or gender inequality could go backwards.

The report highlights the dangers of new technologies exacerbating existing gender divides in the workplace, arguing that recent cases of women suffering from in-built bias in artificial intelligence systems require a “robust response” from policymakers and employers. Left unchecked, “algorithmic prejudice” could become one of the new giants of modern poverty, the study warns.

Amazon had to terminate a hiring algorithm in 2018 after it was revealed that it penalised CVs that contained the word ‘women’, while another study showed men were significantly more likely than women to see online ads for highly paid jobs on Google.

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