Latin American women facing technological challenges, are we ready?

How are we going to face them in the workplace?.

Woman using a laptop

Latin American women prepare to develop opportunities in the labor market. / Photo: Pixabay

The Woman Post | Maria Lourdes Zimmermann

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Leer en español: Mujeres Latinoamericanas frente a los desafíos tecnológicos, ¿estamos preparadas?

Automation and intermediation platforms are those two changes and it is clear that women are in situations that are barely related to them. 

Anyone would think that it is an exaggeration and that today many women get to work more and more in tasks that were carried out mostly by men, in tasks that just have to do with automation with activities carried out by robots, software or machines and it is true, an example is the great teamwork to bring the Perseverance mission to Mars led by women, who work with the automation of processes in the NASA Aerospace Agency. But, how many are like them?

Looking for answers, I found a study by the Inter-American Development Bank called: The future of work in Latin America and the Caribbean: what will the labor market be like for women ?, which details the situation and future work of women facing various scenarios, taking into account the impact of technological changes.

The report defines our vulnerabilities from three conditions. The first is low labor participation; followed by horizontal segregation, which is the inequality of labor distribution between men and women in certain areas of study or occupations; and vertical segregation, which is the difficulty women face in accessing managerial positions.

Up to that point there is nothing new, it is the same story recognized by all today, problems that begin in childhood and continue until youth, cultural and social norms that encourage us to carry out tasks related to care such as education, health or domestic services; while men are encouraged to choose more mathematical and technical areas, such as engineering or computing.

This clearly affects what we study, what we choose and eventually where we end up working. In Latin America and the Caribbean, women represent 60% of university graduates, but only represent 30% of graduates in STEM careers, which are those related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. On the other hand, while 30% of women are linked to care sectors such as education, health, and domestic services, only 6% of men are, these data is provided in the IDB study.

This plunges us into a world that makes us more vulnerable, as many of the highest paying jobs and those least likely to be replaced by automation are in the STEM areas.

Also read: Influential women in cybersecurity were recognized

“Data for four countries in the region (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico) show that among the 20 skills most in demand by employers, half are directly linked to technology development. Also, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the statistical, software developer, and math trades will grow by 34%, 31%, and 30% by 2026, respectively, but women are not choosing those activities.

Both automation and intermediation platforms represent a change in the way workers are hired and both open new opportunities and risks for them.

Automation will make many jobs irrelevant and generate new ones, primarily in areas of programming, data analysis, or areas hard to emulate by machines, such as empathy or creativity. On the other hand, the gig economy makes work more flexible, but it also makes it more precarious; These platforms do not tend to offer social rights such as health insurance, pensions or vacations.

Other difficulties we face is that of accessing managerial positions in the workplace.

The IDB study surprises me when it shows that in the region only 20% of senior management positions in public administration and 4.2% of executive directors of publicly-traded companies are women. In addition, of the 14,412 companies analyzed, only 21.4% have a woman in high-ranking positions and, when they reach a managerial position, they tend to be involved in support roles as human resources directors or financial directors.

Technological trends are affecting us both, both men and women we have to prepare for change and educational institutions in Latin America are the same,  the problem is that as women we are not developing those advanced quantitative skills because we mentally think that it is not our thing and that we do not have the space to be where we want and we can be.

Currently, the labor gender gap in the Latin America and Caribbean region is one of the highest in the world. Despite the advances in female labor participation in the last 50 years, in which it has reached 58%, it is still far below that of men, which is around 82%, and the rate varies greatly by country; The lowest female participation in the region is in Guatemala (39%) and the highest in Uruguay (70%). Greater flexibility and easy access could benefit those women who take care of relatives or children to access the labor market, according to the study.

To change the situation, I identify with what the IDB is proposing. The first thing is to promote continuing education in technology, both in basic and advanced areas, and in the so-called 21st century skills, such as creativity, conflict resolution and empathy. The second is to rethink the social protection infrastructure to include those workers who do it from remote locations or more flexible environments. And the third is to improve the quality of jobs in the care, education and health sectors, so that they include social protection, provide economic stability and offer upward mobility.

They are generating their contributions to break the negative gender stereotypes about STEM careers that begin in childhood, and this contribution attacks one of the problems, because they allied with Plaza Sésamo to create the campaign “Pequeñas Aventureras”, a communication initiative massive that seeks to stimulate girls' sense of belonging with math and science.

Thus, mentalities begin to change so that we can at least educate the new generations on the importance of assuming the future that we are living and that women and men have equal opportunities. The world belongs to those who prepare to live in it and we women have everything to share 50, 50 that world with men. The future is now.

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