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Australia sees rise in women leaders, AI participation

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Positive signs emerge for gender equality in the Australian workplace, according to new data from LinkedIn. 

The share of women hired into senior leadership roles has grown in 2024, reaching 41.4% so far this year, compared to 40.6% in 2023. This encouraging trend coincides with a significant increase in women’s participation in AI engineering, with their concentration in this field up 171% since 2016. However, a separate report highlights a concerning reality: women are disproportionately impacted by economic downturns. As AI continues to transform workplaces, with 84% of knowledge workers now using AI, it’s crucial for employers to prioritize equitable upskilling initiatives to ensure women aren’t left behind.

This trend reverses the previous year-on-year decline between 2022 and 2023, and represents a 19% increase in women being hired into leadership roles since 2016 (which measured at 34.8%). 

LinkedIn’s data, published today in the World Economic Forum’s 2024 Global Gender Gap Report, also shows that women are paying a heavy price for systemic imbalances in the labour market. These imbalances not only mean that there are fewer women in leadership roles but that when there are economic shocks, women are more adversely affected. 

In the US, the share of women hired into leadership fell from 40.6% (2023) to 40.1% (2024), while in the UK it fell from 37.5% (2023) to 37.1% (2024) and in France from 39.0% (2023) to 38.4% (2024). This is despite women having some of the most sought after skills required by companies today. 

AI at work is here

The recent 2024 Work Trend Index from Microsoft and LinkedIn reveals that AI is already significantly changing the workplace. 84% of knowledge workers in Australia are already using AI at work, and there has been a 142x global increase in LinkedIn members adding AI literacy skills to their profiles. Skill sets for jobs globally have changed by around 25% since 2015, and with AI accelerating this trend, jobs are expected to change as much as 68% by 2030.

In this adapted environment, soft skills are in high-demand – women were found to have a 28% higher share of the soft skills listed on LinkedIn, such as team leadership, strategic leadership and collaboration, suggesting an opportunity to help close the gender gap. While the overall data in the report paints a challenging picture for gender equity in the workplace, there are some green shoots, with the share of AI talent who are women increasing from 23.5% in 2016 to 27% in 2023.

The concentration of women in AI engineering has also more than doubled since 2016 (+171%), increasing at a faster rate than for men (+126%) and improving representation, but men still make up the majority.  

Matt Tindale, LinkedIn Country Manager, Australia and New Zealand, said: “We are reaching a pivotal moment as generative AI starts to impact the labour market with a recalibration of the skills employers value most, with the concentration of women in AI engineering having more than doubled since 2016, increasing at a faster rate than for men. Employers must ensure they apply a gender lens to their approach in up-skilling to establish the future workplace in a fair and equitable way.” 

Lack of gender balance has wide reaching impacts

LinkedIn data also shows the proportion of Australian women in roles drops as they become more senior, from a more equal gender balance at entry level (50.6%), falling to just 36% at Director Level, and 29% at C-suite. This seniority slump suggests that not enough is being done to support women with career progression, through policies such as remote and hybrid working, with women typically applying for more remote and hybrid jobs than men.

The 2024 Global Gender Gap report shows that gender inequality in sectors has been linked to gender pay gaps, finding that industries where women account for a higher share of the workforce tend to be lower paid. The report also highlights that globally, industries with less than 50% female representation are disproportionately more likely to show associations between worsening labour markets and smaller shares of senior leadership hires being women.

Intervention needed to combat systemic challenges: 

The report finds that systemic change is needed to progress gender equality at work, with the data showing the following solutions can help improve outcomes for women: 

A skills-first approach to hiring, valuing skills above traditional credentials such as job titles or qualifications; LinkedIn research shows that women were almost twice as likely (x 1.8) as men to apply for a job posting when they were shown how their skills overlapped with the job requirements, leading to a similar positive impact on hiring outcomes. 

Inclusive and fair hiring practices, as well as internal mobility programmes and encouraging flexible working; women are shown to apply for more hybrid roles, and prefer remote work the higher up the ladder they progress

Upskilling and career growth; training and mentorship schemes, especially in pre and middle-management roles 

Factoring in gender when up-skilling for AI; as the workplace is transformed, ensuring training is handled in a fair and equitable way. 

To help upskill workers in the relevant hard and soft skills needed for in-demand jobs, LinkedIn is offering a number of free courses. This includes over 50 new AI learning courses to empower professionals at all skill levels. For more, go to: opportunity.linkedin.com

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