How technology will support the gender gap closing

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When it comes to issues in the Australian workplace, the gender pay gap stands out like a sore thumb. Although this gap has improved in recent years, the average woman in an OECD country still earns around 15 per cent less than her male counterpart, according to the 2017 PwC's Women in Work Index.

This was one of the key findings from the index which tracks female economic development over 33 OECD countries. Australia placed 16th in the most recent index, down one from last year and lagging well behind perennial leaders Iceland, Sweden and Norway.

Additionally, based on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, male graduates will also earn around 7 per cent more than a female counterpart who has the same degree or qualification.

While Australian employees are working hard to close these gaps, particularly through changes in attitude, it's important to highlight the role that technology is expected to make.

The gender gap and technology

Mr Williams noted that traditionally male-dominated roles such as accounting, legal and medicine could be more affected by technology than roles traditionally held by women such as in creative and design.Robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning - three processes that will transform both jobs and workplaces over the next decade or so. However, for PwC Leader of People and Organisation Jon Williams, this represents a potential turning point for the gender wage gap.

"However, it is these traditionally male roles that are most susceptible to automation and will shrink faster in the next decade. Some of the traditionally female roles are harder to replace with machines and computers, and in response, women's pay may surge as these female dominated roles become in more demand," he said.

The importance of diversifying skill sets

While technology is expected to replace some roles, it does present an opportunity for candidates to expand their skill sets and move about the employment market - a concept that could also assist the wage gap issue.

"The net result of this is that career breaks and changes will become more frequent and universal and therefore have less of a differentiating impact between the sexes," Mr Williams continued.

Of course, there are several challenges ahead. Firstly, the wage gap should be closed with women earning more rather than men earning less. Secondly, employers still need to have a positive attitude towards actively addressing the gender wage gap - something that will leverage changes that we'll see in the future.

By Sarah Banek