Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Why we must act now to revive women’s leadership prospects in an AI-driven workplace

Eye looks to the future business. Woman's eye in the double exposure of a modern city and technology: We could see more women in leadership with more skills focus, especially regarding artificial intelligence.

We could see more women in leadership with more skills focus, especially regarding artificial intelligence. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sue Duke
Head, Global Public Policy and Economic Graph Team, LinkedIn
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  • With artificial intelligence (AI) set to transform the workplace, LinkedIn data in this year’s Global Gender Gap Report shows the hiring rate of women into leadership roles continues to decline.
  • Women face systemic challenges in accessing senior positions across all countries and sectors, undermining economic growth.
  • To revive the global economy and improve gender parity, we need sustained and systematic efforts to get women into leadership roles.
Have you read?
  • Global Gender Gap Report 2024

Women have always paid a heavy price for economic instability. And with the global labour market cooling down from the hiring frenzy of 2020 and 2021, it is female professionals who are losing out. As hiring slows, the marginal progress made in recent years to increase the number of women in leadership is being wiped out.

In its annual Global Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum leverages LinkedIn data to identify and highlight key trends for women in the workplace. This year, our data shows that women are less likely than last year to reach a leadership position, which is bad news for women and bad news for the economy.

Continued erosion of women in leadership

In 2022, the global hiring rate for women into leadership roles topped 38%. It has fallen each year since and is now down to 36%.

Women hired into leadership: Share of women hired into leadership over time.
Women hired into leadership: Share of women hired into leadership over time. Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2024/LinkedIn Economic Graph

It’s a slow but steady downward trend that we're seeing globally, including in major economies such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France. This decline should set off alarm bells across sectors and countries; female representation at the leadership level has risen by less than 1% in six years (30.9% to 31.7%).

Workforce representation: Women represent 42% of the workforce but 31.7% of senior leadership.
Workforce representation: Women represent 42% of the workforce but 31.7% of senior leadership. Image: Global Gender Gap Report 2024/LinkedIn Economic Graph
Have you read?

    Generative AI is at a pivotal moment

    This slowdown comes during a period of workforce transformation. Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) is shaking up how we work, with three in four people in desk-based roles now using it in their jobs.

    This new technology calls for new skills: LinkedIn predicts the skillsets required for jobs globally will change by as much as 68% by 2030. Many of these will be soft, interpersonal skills that help us work well together, such as team leadership, strategic leadership and collaboration. Of the soft skills listed on LinkedIn, women were found to have a 28% higher share than men.

    At the same time, women are pushing forward with their own technical upskilling. Since 2016, the share of female AI talent and the concentration of women working in AI engineering has grown significantly.

    So the advent of GenAI presents an opportunity to help close the gender gap.

    When women miss out, so does the economy

    Women make up a significant part of the global workforce and during economic instability, it’s even more important to enable every worker to reach their potential. Seeking gender parity in the workplace is essential not only for the experience of women but also for the health of the global economy. However, as it stands, not a single country or industry has achieved gender parity in leadership. The 2024 report suggests that it is unlikely to change soon without a major shift in approach.

    There are undoubtedly some green shoots for female representation. Industries where more women join in entry-level roles, such as education, government and consumer services, see more women ultimately reaching senior positions too but there is still a dip. That drop in female representation at the top levels of companies is even steeper in male-dominated industries such as real estate, financial services, supply chain and transportation.

    We are trapped in a vicious labour market cycle that prevents women in leadership, which in turn damages our economy.


    We must act to break the cycle

    Gender parity and its consequences demand systemic, economy-wide solutions. The answer here is not to wring our hands and ask ourselves how this could have happened but to move fast and course correct before we lose even more ground.

    Policymakers must enable and demand actions that businesses must take to support women as they move through their careers to open doors which might otherwise be closed.

    Fair hiring practices and an inclusive approach to upskilling and career growth, including training and mentorship schemes, especially in pre- and middle-management roles, will help drive more women into senior positions.

    And keeping gender front of mind when upskilling employees so women are given the same opportunities as men to learn and progress in high-growth areas such as AI.

    Focusing on candidate skills during hiring can help put women on the front foot when applying for jobs. LinkedIn research found that the increase in women applying for jobs was almost twice the increase observed in men when they were shown how their existing skills overlapped with the job requirements, with a similar impact on hiring outcomes.

    The evidence shows flexible working policies also help women, who typically apply for more hybrid and remote roles than men. We know that care responsibilities can disproportionately impact women, so workplaces must have policies that counteract this imbalance.

    If we don’t act now, we’ll lose women at the leadership level and continue to feel the negative effects of that loss on our economy. We can’t look forward to a future workplace transformed by AI without addressing the inequity that is still holding women back throughout the world.

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