Women have the edge on soft skills to succeed in the age of AI nd break glass ceiling

After making significant progress in recent years, women are beginning to see their march up the corporate ladder stalled by a still very apparent glass ceiling, new research from LinkedIn shows.

The social media platform found the share of women being hired into leadership positions in the U.K. rose from 31.6% in 2016 to 37.8% in 2022. 

However, upward momentum has halted in the last two years. In 2024, the share of women hired into leadership positions had fallen to 37.1%.

Ireland is the only European country assessed by LinkedIn where this share rose last year. But globally, the trend in the last couple of years has been downward.

It would suggest that the easy wins for workplace diversity have been achieved, and parity will require either marginal gains or a major workplace revolution. It also highlights the stark reality faced by women during economic downturns.

“LinkedIn’s data shows that the marginal progress made in recent years for women entering leadership roles is being eroded, as women pay the price for a cooling economy,” said Sue Duke, LinkedIn’s VP of global public policy & economic graph.

“The result? Female representation at the leadership level has risen by less than 1% in six years.”

There are also longer-term barriers that stunt progress as a woman’s career progresses, maternity care being the prime culprit. 

These barriers have proved difficult to completely tear down. Indeed, they’re so pervasive that Gen Z women are unlikely to close the gender pay gap before they retire. 

“Gender pay parity remains out of sight for a 21-year-old woman entering the workforce today and the analysis suggests it will take over 45 years to close the gender pay gap in the U.K.,” authors of a June report by PwC on the pay gap wrote.

AI transformation

LinkedIn data, though, would suggest there is hope for women in the AI revolution, in an optimistic take on the technology that often carries doomsday calls.

The platform predicts that the typical skills required for jobs globally will change by 68% fro what they are now by 2030. 

According to the report’s authors, the soft, interpersonal characteristics of those skills, like leadership and collaboration, are overwhelmingly possessed by women. On LinkedIn, women have a 28% higher share of soft skills than men. 

While it’s a positive outlook on AI’s ability to impact gender dynamics, women will need to be on guard from its negative effects. LinkedIn’s Duke points out that men make up the majority of AI talent. Studies have shown women are also more at risk than men from the technology.

“Opportunities for women to make progress in their careers will disappear unless employers consider gender when upskilling to ensure that the workplace is transformed in a fair and equitable way.”

Further reading

U.K. Gen Z women unlikely to close gender pay gap before they retire, PwC research says

Just 5% of the main skills job candidates need today will be the same in three years, McKinsey says: ‘Companies aren’t going to find perfect unicorns’

Single women are scraping by: Held down by the wage gap and inflation, they struggle to build wealth or emergency savings

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