Why women can win in the AI-driven automation revolution

a portrait photo of a woman using a phone, together with a UiPath robot flying around her

Never has the phrase ‘the future is now’ rang truer than today. We, in the enterprise tech world, have long been exposed to the tremendously transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) and enterprise business automation software. But now, with the rapid advent of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and others, every line of text appears on screens in real time seemingly out of nowhere, users everywhere are witnessing the power of mass technological innovation at play.

Whichever camp you fall into—the innovators, the early adopters, the late majority, or others—one thing is certain: our current working lives, as well as the labor market and the skills of the future will be irreversibly impacted. According to a report by McKinsey, “the need for some skills, such as technological as well as social and emotional skills, will rise, even as the demand for others, including physical and manual skills, will fall.”

Creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and collaboration, are rated among the top 10 most valuable skills for the next 10 years by author Bernard Marr. In his 2022 book, Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World, exploring the skills of the future, he argues that cultivating ‘soft skills’ is one of the keys to thriving in the new digital age.

What future for women?

Not coincidentally, these are also skills that are highly sought in women-dominated professions, such as healthcare, social work, and other types of care work. Reports analyzing gender distribution in the workplace show that from an employment perspective, men and women tend to cluster in different sectors, both in mature and emerging economies. A 2019 McKinsey Global Institute analysis found that “in many countries, women account for more than 70% of workers in healthcare and social assistance.” What’s more, the global care workforce, which represents 11.5% of total global employment and is heavily dominated by women, is expected by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to grow steadily by 2023 with demand exceeding offer to the tune of 18 million healthcare workers by the same date.

Empowering women through AI and automation skills

In and of itself, the growth trend identified by the ILO serves to map the projected future of employment tentatively in a single women-dominated sector. However, it's my strong conviction that women’s potential to thrive is unleashed when our profoundly human qualities—in whichever sector they're deployed—are complemented by strong tech skills. And in the workplace of the future, the winning mix includes AI and software automation skills. Keeping with the caring profession theme, it is by watching inspiring women take a bold stance and learning how to build software robots to help those in need that my conviction was forged.

When empathy meets automation skills

I’ve been extremely inspired by the spirit of innovation and the leadership of Jincy Jerry, Assistant Director of Nursing, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital (MMUH) in Dublin, Ireland. As she was auditing solutions to help lift the burden put on hospital workers by administrative work, Jerry attended a UiPath seminar which led her to download the community edition of the UiPath Platform and began experimenting with building software robots. Three months later, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke, she was instrumental in encouraging the hospital’s administration to roll out the automation software in Mater Hospital’s IPC department. This allowed the department to process test results within minutes, saving three hours per week of the nurses’ valuable time during a time Mater Hospital nurses and doctors were no longer leaving hospitals to go home to their families.

The second example rings closer to home—quite literally. While volunteering for an elderly home in Munich, my teenage daughter came across the same issue Jerry had identified in her department. Too much admin work was keeping staff from attending to the very focus of their activity: attending to vulnerable senior patients. By learning how to use the UiPath Business Automation Platform, my daughter developed a robot that automated a key process, removing the need for data entry into a number of systems.

Lastly, I’d like to call out a UiPath colleague. At the height of the Ukrainian refugee crisis in Romania, soon after the war broke in February of last year, Elena Mega led a team of three citizen developers. The team worked together with the Romanian Red Cross (RRC) to automate reporting of vital support which benefitted the thousands of refugees it served. This enabled RRC staff to move from manual reporting of donations and was done in many cases in pen and paper, to using software robots.

Automation skills at your fingertips

We’re firm believers that anyone, regardless of their age, gender, level of prior tech knowledge, and other differentiators, can acquire automation skills. Look no further than our UiPath Academy, which has been offering open and free automation training since 2017. Currently, 32% of users who specified their gender are women. And the figure has been growing over the past two years.

Another key part of the UiPath learning ecosystem is our Academic Alliance, which now has more than 2,500 members. Members include universities, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and institutions where young people can access automation curricula alongside their university major.

How about AI?

I hold the view that both automation (as exemplified above) and AI will put in motion a tidal wave of technological transformation that'll be more inclusive than the previous ones. Turning to AI, given the seemingly overnight explosion in adoption rates of generative AI, the technology is proving to have a much lower threshold for entry than other technologies.

The world recently celebrated the United Nations (UN) International Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day. Also, earlier this year, UiPath held its first Women in Automation program, which included panels and mentorship sessions. It's my hope that more and more girls will be inspired to get into tech education. Regardless of the ultimate accurate scenario for the future of employment, what’s certain is that automation and AI training, reskilling, and upskilling are imperatives for women to thrive in the workplace of the future.

a portrait photo of Annette Maier
Annette Maier

Area Vice President Sales Central Europe, UiPath