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By Sonia Elks
LONDON, Dec 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women may struggle to close the gender pay gap as technology reshapes the global economy, with women’s jobs more likely to be replaced by robots while men dominate emerging sectors, according to a leading global think-tank.
Overall gender equality is improving but the number of women entering work is “stalling” and financial disparities are widening, found the World Economic Forum’s annual index tracking gender divides in health, education, economy and politics.
One of the biggest challenges to achieving equal pay - with women currently earning about half as much as men - is getting more women into jobs in emerging digital industries as business and trade go online, it said in a ranking of 153 countries.
“One of the best ways to close the gender gap is to focus on the skills of tomorrow,” Vesselina Ratcheva, a spokeswoman for the World Economic Forum, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.
“This means ensuring women have access ... to the most in-demand skills but also that companies adopt diverse hiring practices and more inclusive workplace cultures.”
Overall, women must wait 99.5 years to see parity with men on average across health, education, economy and politics, said the authors, a slight improvement from 108 years in 2018.
The workplace had the slowest pace of change, with equality predicted in 257 years, up from 202 years in 2018.
As technology creates new jobs AI, engineering and cloud computing and renders others, like retail, obsolete, women risk losing out as they are less likely to have “disruptive” skills for careers with high job growth and salaries, WEF said.
However, the changes also present an opportunity for women if they train in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles and are offered pathways into careers in fast-growth sectors, it said.
Although the number of women in STEM has increased, they still only account for about 30% of the world’s researchers, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO says.
“The World Economic Forum’s findings are discouraging but not at all surprising,” said Rachel Thomas, founder of LeanIn.Org, which promotes women’s workplace equality.
“Companies need to take bold steps to make sure their hiring processes are fair and inclusive and provide women with the training and sponsorship that they need to advance.”
In March, global accounting firm PwC found developed countries alone could add trillions of dollars to their economies by increasing women’s participation in workforces and ensuring they earn as much as men.
Iceland, for the eleventh year in a row, held the top spot across all indicators that measured gender equality, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden and Nicaragua, WEF said.
Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org