Insights, Expert Perspectives, and Policy Solutions for a More Inclusive Workplace in the Era of AI
In the ever-evolving landscape of decent work and social justice, the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITCILO) marked a pivotal moment with the unveiling of its Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (GEDI) Day on 1 December 2023. This transformative event, seamlessly integrated into the ITCILO Gender Academy, served as a beacon for change, drawing a substantial audience of participants and staff. More than just a day on the calendar, GEDI Day became a platform to introduce and showcase the organization’s unwavering commitment to fostering a more inclusive world of work.
This occasion was not merely about updating a tradition but also a key moment to unveil the ITCILO Action Plan on Gender, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. As a part of our flagship activities, the Gender Academy provided the ideal backdrop for this unveiling, offering a rich tapestry of opportunities for learning, knowledge exchange, and empowerment. It wasn’t just an event; it was a declaration—an organizational pledge to champion inclusivity and diversity.
One issue emerged as a focal point: the critical role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in shaping the future of work. AI, the driving force behind many current and future technological advancements, has the potential to redefine our workplaces, presenting both challenges and opportunities. Gender equality, often overlooked in discussions about AI, took center stage, as the event aimed to unravel the intricate relationship between AI and GEDI at work.
The speakers on the panel brought unique expertise to the forefront, steering the discourse towards a profound understanding of the impact of AI on gender equality. From a researcher at Oxford delving into the intricacies of AI’s biases to a dedicated practitioner instrumental in empowering young girls with coding skills, each speaker illuminated the challenges and opportunities that AI introduces to the world of work. Their interventions resonated, compelling the audience to pause, reflect, and delve deeper into the complexities that lie at the intersection of AI and gender equality.
As we embark on this exploration of the ITCILO GEDI Day and the groundbreaking insights shared, we unravel a narrative that goes beyond a single event—a narrative of commitment, awareness, and the pursuit of a more inclusive and diverse future in the age of AI.
In a defining moment, GEDI Day marked the official launch of the ITCILO Action Plan on Gender, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion for the years 2023-2025. This action plan outlines a comprehensive framework of interconnected and mutually reinforcing interventions, positioning gender equality, diversity, and inclusion as core pillars within the organizational strategy.
Christophe Perrin, Director of the ITCILO, emphasized the plan’s significance, stating, “The Centre has an important role to play as a promoter of gender equality, diversity, and inclusion, both internally among its staff and externally among participants in its training courses globally.” This commitment extends across three key action areas: interventions directed at the staff, initiatives aimed at participants worldwide, and efforts to create an enabling environment conducive to implementing measures.
“By 2025, we aspire to achieve equal representation and address the intersectionality of gender, diversity, and equality. My hope is to witness a transformative shift in our institutional culture.”
Christophe Perrin, Director of the ITCILO
Andreas Klemmer, the ITCILO’s Director of Training, echoed this commitment, asserting, “This Action Plan builds on the achievements and lessons learned from the previous plan, underlining our dedication to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace.”
Under the action area related to staff, the plan sets out ambitious outcomes. By 2025, the Centre aims for equal representation, targeting 40% women in senior management positions. To achieve this, a multifaceted approach includes refining recruitment processes, conducting training for selection committees on inclusive recruitment, and establishing a young female leaders coaching programme.
Moreover, the plan recognizes the importance of a more inclusive workplace, addressing geographical diversity and disability inclusion. The Centre is committed to ensuring that facilities, recruitment processes, and workplaces are designed to accommodate staff with disabilities, promoting accessibility and inclusion.
The second outcome focuses on empowering staff to actively promote gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. By 2025, the goal is for 100% of managers to define specific objectives related to these values, integrated into the performance management process. The plan outlines strategies such as coaching programmes, workshops on bias, and bottom-up initiatives at the unit level to instill these values in the organizational culture.
The aim is to create a work environment where gender equality, diversity, and inclusion are not just organizational goals but intrinsic values actively promoted by every member of the staff. As the Centre embarks on this transformative journey outlined in the Action Plan, it sets the stage for not just policy implementation but a cultural shift towards an organization that leads by example in championing gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the world of work.
The ITCILO GEDI Day featured insightful panel discussions that delved into pressing issues at the intersection of AI, the world of work, and gender equality. The engaging conversations centered around dismantling stereotypes and biases perpetuated by AI, addressing the gender gap in STEM fields, managing the risks associated with automation, and comprehending AI’s impact on recruitment processes.
Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO, underscored the imperative to elevate the status of women in the realm of AI applications, emphasizing the importance of ensuring these technologies respect the dignity of women and girls. Her call for gender equality resonated powerfully, encapsulating the urgency of addressing these issues across all spheres of our lives.
“We need to do better for women and ensure that AI applications respect the dignity of women and girls. What better time to call for gender equality in every sphere of our lives?”
Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO
As a Senior Researcher at ILO Geneva, Pawel Gmyrek emphasized the need to consistently consider the impact of technological changes on vulnerable groups. Gmyrek emphasized the importance of crafting intelligent policies to shape the future of gender and AI, particularly as women occupy positions that may be significantly influenced by AI. He advocated for the implementation of guardrails to prevent any gendered impact, emphasizing the early stages of generative AI and the necessity for social dialogue with affected workers.
“A badly-managed transition could disproportionately harm women, while a positive transformation process could create important opportunities for women’s empowerment.”
Pawel Gmyrek, Senior Researcher at ILO Geneva
Dipty Chander, President of E-mma (a French non-profit promoting diversity in technology), highlighted the paradoxical nature of AI learning from biases, particularly in its portrayal of women. Chander lamented the stagnant progress in gender diversity in technology over the past decade, stressing the urgency of education and equal access to technology from an early age to combat biases at their source.
“We’re entering into an era of generative AI, which is incredible, but we are keeping those biases. Women and diversity in tech and AI is more and more essential today.”
Dipty Chander, President of E-mma
Clementine Collett, a Doctoral Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, brought attention to the use of AI in recruitment processes and the challenges it poses to gender equality. Collett's vision of inclusivity and diversity in AI resonated, emphasizing the need for education on technology’s nuances and the importance of diverse voices in steering these conversations. She drew attention to the biases ingrained in data and algorithms, stressing the need for swift regulatory action to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology.
“The biases in our systems are the same as those present in our society. Data is biased, algorithms are designed in a biased way, primarily because they don’t have diversity in their processes.”
Clementine Collett, Doctoral Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute
The panel discussions brought to the forefront the complexities of navigating the evolving landscape of AI and its profound implications for gender equality. The urgency expressed by the panelists reinforced the commitment to actively address these challenges, making the ITCILO GEDI Day a pivotal platform for driving meaningful change in the era of AI.
The ILO has conducted extensive research on Generative AI’s impact on job quantity and quality, shedding light on the global analysis, exposure of occupations, and gendered impacts stemming from the comprehensive study.
Gmyrek underscored the nuanced nature of the study, revealing that while Generative AI, particularly GPT-4, doesn’t herald the “end of work,” it does introduce the potential for significant transformations. The exposure of occupations to automation varies, with clerical support workers identified as the most vulnerable group. The study indicates that 24% of tasks in these jobs face high levels of exposure to automation, while another 58% have medium-level exposure.
However, Gmyrek emphasizes that this doesn’t imply complete automation; rather, it suggests a potential for efficiency gains through partial automation, allowing human intervention in most tasks.
The analysis delves into the unique ILO repository, utilizing country-level microdata to assess the actual presence of such jobs globally. Surprisingly, the potential for augmentation surpasses automation globally, with high-income countries most exposed to automation risks. Despite this, Gmyrek cautions that high-income countries are better equipped to handle the transition costs, leaving lower-income countries at risk of missing out on the productivity benefits.
“The design and application of regulations is crafted through tripartite systems, in which workers’, employers’ and government representatives engage with equal voice.”
Pawel Gmyrek, Senior Researcher at ILO Geneva
A striking gender disparity emerges, with women more likely to be affected by automation than men. Gmyrek reveals that in high-income countries, jobs with high automation potential constitute 8.5% of women’s employment, compared to 3.9% for men. However, jobs with high augmentation potential also show a higher share among women, indicating a potential positive transformation for women’s empowerment with proper management.
In addition to automation and augmentation, the study introduces “The Big Unknown,” a group comprising 9.1% of global employment. This category, primarily consisting of professionals, technicians, and associate professionals, presents a challenge due to high occupational automation scores and wide variance across tasks.
Recognizing and Protecting Workers
The working paper also sheds light on the people working on developing Generative AI, emphasizing the need to recognize and protect their rights. Gmyrek emphasizes that the creation of GenAI relies heavily on millions of human laborers engaged in tasks like cleaning and tagging training data, often through crowdsourcing platforms.
In the pursuit of addressing the gendered impact of AI on employment, Pawel Gmyrek offers a set of comprehensive policy recommendations. These strategic measures aim to navigate the transformative landscape brought about by generative AI, focusing on minimizing negative consequences and fostering gender equality in the workforce.
Gmyrek underscores the importance of prioritizing redeployment and training initiatives in the face of potential job losses due to automation. By focusing on reskilling and upskilling programmes, this policy recommendation aims to empower workers, ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary skills to adapt to the evolving job market. The emphasis on redeployment seeks to minimize terminations, offering a proactive approach to workforce transitions.
Recognizing the vulnerability of workers facing displacement, Gmyrek advocates for policies that ensure comprehensive social protection and access to retraining. This recommendation serves as a safeguard against the adverse effects of job displacement, providing a safety net for affected workers. By coupling social protection with retraining opportunities, policymakers can mitigate the immediate impact on individuals while fostering a supportive environment for skill development and career transition.
To effectively tackle the gendered impact of generative AI, Gmyrek suggests incorporating a gender-specific lens into policy-making. This involves recognizing the distinct challenges faced by women in the workforce and tailoring policies to address their unique needs. By acknowledging the disproportionate impact on women-dominated occupations, policymakers can implement targeted measures to safeguard women’s employment opportunities and economic empowerment.
Gmyrek recommends strategic investment in sectors that have the potential to generate quality jobs, such as the care or green economy. This proactive approach not only creates new employment opportunities but also contributes to the development of sectors crucial for societal well-being. By focusing on under-funded sectors, policymakers can address existing inequalities while harnessing the positive potential of generative AI in shaping the future world of work.
Recognizing that the effects of generative AI on job quality hinge on design and integration, Gmyrek highlights the need for policies that ensure positive outcomes. Policies should encourage the augmentation of work in a way that enhances job quality rather than diminishing it. This involves fostering collaboration and dialogue between workers, employers, and government representatives to create regulations that promote fairness, transparency, and worker autonomy.
Clementine Collett brings a nuanced perspective to the regulation of AI technologies. Her insights underscore the crucial need for transparency within technology companies and advocate for adaptable regulations to effectively address emerging challenges.
Collett passionately advocates for transparency in technology companies utilizing AI. She contends that as AI increasingly permeates various aspects of our lives, including the recruitment process, it is imperative for these technologies to operate with a level of openness that allows for scrutiny and accountability. Her call for transparency serves as a foundational principle in navigating the ethical and societal implications of AI.
“We need more transparency from technology companies surrounding how systems are being designed and deployed, and quicker response from governments and regulators when it comes to putting up effective guardrails.”
Clementine Collett, Doctoral Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute
Recognizing the rapid evolution of AI technologies, she emphasizes the necessity of regulations that can flexibly adapt to new developments. The dynamic nature of AI demands regulations that are not only forward-looking but also capable of responding promptly to unforeseen challenges and ethical dilemmas. Collett contends that regulations must not be static; rather, they should evolve alongside the technology they seek to govern.
Governments and regulators play a pivotal role in Collett’s vision of effective AI governance. She highlights the responsibility of these entities in setting robust guardrails that ensure the ethical use of AI technologies. The regulatory framework, according to Collett, should be designed to protect against biases, ensure transparency, and safeguard fundamental rights.
As technology continues to advance, adaptable regulations, driven by transparency and collaboration between governments and the private sector, become paramount. Collett’s call to action resonates as a reminder that effective regulation is not just a legal requirement but a collective responsibility in shaping a future where AI aligns with human values and societal well-being.
As we reflect on the discussions and insights from the ITCILO GEDI Day, a resounding commitment to transformative change echoes throughout. The unveiling of the ITCILO Action Plan on Gender, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion marks a milestone in organizational strategy and a profound dedication to fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace.
In the words of Christophe Perrin, Director of the ITCILO, “The integration of gender equality, diversity, and inclusion values across all programmes at ITCILO is a pivotal step in our organizational journey.” The blueprint outlined in the action plan includes ambitious goals, such as achieving equal representation by 2025 and empowering staff to actively promote these values in the workplace.
As we navigate the intricate intersection of AI and gender equality, GEDI Day was a pivotal platform. Insightful panel discussions featuring experts like Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Pawel Gmyrek, Dipty Chander, and Clementine Collett illuminated the challenges and opportunities that AI introduces to the world of work. Their interventions, encapsulated in Dr. Oliveira’s call for gender equality in every sphere of our lives and Gmyrek’s emphasis on intelligently navigating the transformative landscape, reinforced the urgency of addressing these issues.
As we navigate the complex terrain of AI advancements, collaboration emerges as a central theme. It is through joint efforts, involving governments, organizations, and individuals, that we can truly shape an inclusive digital future.
By delving into ILO and ITCILO resources on gender, equality, diversity, and inclusion, we can deepen our understanding, foster dialogue, and actively contribute to creating a future where AI aligns seamlessly with principles of equity and respect for all. Together, let’s embark on the journey to shape a digital landscape that reflects the diversity and inclusivity our world deserves.
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