The Impact of Disruption on Women

With the rise of big data, digitalization, and innovation, it is clear that the coming decades will be dominated by disruption. Change initiated by disruption is twofold: change will impact the dynamic of current jobs and even the existence of certain jobs. As this phenomenon sweeps through industries and countries without discretion, what is the impact on half of the world’s population – women.

Disrupting the dynamic of current jobs:

The growing role of digitalization and the incorporation of robots in the workforce imply a new skill set increasingly demanded by employers. Thus, many workers must find new jobs; however, not all industries and workers will be affected equally. For example, Mercer’s study finds that administrative assistants, market intelligence workers, and sales staff – jobs commonly held by women – are at high risk of replacement (15% for women as compared to 5% for men). Further, office and administrative workers will lose approximately 10 times as many jobs as other workers in industries with high job creation. Such industries, like management, engineering, mathematical, and computational sciences, already have lower numbers of women employed; thus, the job creation does not significantly benefit women.

Nonetheless, the onus cannot be placed solely on women to acquire new skills. Employers and institutions can proactively act in anticipation of such disruption by leveraging data analytics to deliver data-driven insight on the strength of businesses and areas for improvement. Accordingly, employers can use such methods to identify gaps in their diversity programs. Employers can then anticipate displacement and future needs. Basic, straightforward measures such as pay equity and leveling the gender balance of senior leadership seem simple, yet are still unaccomplished goals to strive for. Employers can also provide gender-specific health, education, and retirement benefits to ensure comprehensive coverage for all employees.

Disrupting job creation and destruction:

Luckily, disruption does not purely bring bad news for women.

Disruption can also be defined as innovating new, unprecedented goods and services, otherwise known as the Blue Ocean Strategy. In order to be truly disruptive, a business owner must ask, “If my product disappears, will there be a hole left in the market? Or will consumers and other businesses simply carry on?” Therefore, there may be businesses and jobs in the future that will serve crucial needs, but these are jobs that have not even been created yet. Perhaps within these jobs, there lie an abundance of latent opportunities for women to create start-ups and disrupt the job market. Opportunities range from creating services for those affected by disruption to identifying gender-specific consumer preferences on the market. For example, women in management, a small, but growing group, may identify services that have only recently been discovered to be immensely helpful to women in the workplace. Apps that allow families to connect with childcare and babysitting services, as well as food delivery apps like Deliveroo and Postmates, already hint at the growing needs of families with working mothers and fathers. As the role of women in the professional sphere grow, so will the services and lifestyle needs that cater to them, creating new business opportunities.


Mercer Study: “When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive,” World Economic Forum Annual Meeting January 2017.

Harvard Business Review: “Blue Ocean Strategy” W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.