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Female-dominated jobs to be hit the hardest in changing economy

According to new data from Statistics Canada, the Canadian economy lost more jobs in January than expected. And financial experts are predicting that, going forward, job prospects are looking particularly bleak for women.

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Statistic Canada reports that Canadians lost 5,700 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate hit 7.2 per cent. And while the unemployment rate for women over 25 was 5.6 per cent — 1 per cent lower than that of men of the same age — experts are warning women to brace for the worst.

Financial experts are buzzing about what they’re calling the “fourth industrial revolution.” According to World Economic Forum, this new era is “a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” Jobs in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to 3-D printing, robotics and synthetic biology are expected to flourish. But traditionally female-dominated jobs, like office administration, will likely get phased out.

World Economic Forum warns in a new report about gender and the future of jobs that a whopping 4.8 million office and administration jobs are going to disappear globally by 2020 — an industry in which women occupy over half of the jobs. Male-dominated jobs, by contrast, like architecture and design and positions requiring strong computer and mathematical skills, are on the rise.

In Canada, the gender gap in technology-oriented jobs is pretty big. While women make up just under half of the Canadian workforce, they occupy only 24 per cent of advanced technology jobs (according to Canadian Women in Technology).

There’s a clear need for Canadian women to take action and prepare for the changing job landscape. “If we can’t equip 50 per cent of our workforce with some of the foundational skills for where much of the market growth is going, we will be in a real economic crisis,” Jane Wilson, the women’s services director at the Toronto-based nonprofit group Community MicroSkills Development Centre, tells CTV News.

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World Economic Forum study authors warn that if these current trends persist, “women are at risk of losing out on tomorrow’s best job opportunities…” They suggest that companies take an active role in closing the gender gap in male-dominated industries by offering mentoring and skills training services, being sensitive to women’s unique work-life balance needs — as many women are also the main caregivers in their families — and addressing male/female salary gaps.

World Economic Forum study authors have found silver linings, though: “Household work could be further automated, relieving some of the current dual burden women face and allowing women to put their skills to use in the formal economy.” We like the sound of that!

The takeaway here? Prepare yourself for the new economy. If you’re interested in advanced tech jobs, you can try connecting with a mentor or becoming one yourself through Canadian Women in Technology. And if you have a daughter, you both can learn coding through workshops put on by groups such as the Ladies Learning Code. There’s really no reason for us to be left behind.

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