5 workplace skills women need to have to future-proof themselves

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Terms like artificial intelligence, automation, algorithms, big data and virtual reality are no longer simply buzzwords used only by breathy tech geeks, or even starry-eyed entrepreneurs at investor pitches.

Technology is fast becoming entrenched as an integral part of our daily lives.

In fact, you might say the future is tech.

What does this mean for the modern woman at work, as businesses and industries hurtle towards a tech-centric future?

What skills do women need to develop in order to thrive in the workplace of the future?

Tech and the threat to women’s jobs

Tech is bringing a sea change, and like every revolution, undeniable impact to jobs and careers.

Among other predictions comes this rather dire one from the International Monetary Fund, which states that 11 per cent of jobs currently held by women are at risk of elimination because of AI and other digital technologies.

Additionally, a recent report by research firm McKinsey Global Institute estimates that between 40 million to 160 million women around the world will be expected to navigate a career change by 2030. 

These changes, prompted by automation in industry, will see more women moving into higher-skilled jobs.

McKinsey warns that failure to make the transition is likely to exacerbate the existing inequalities that women face in the workplace.

However, to make the transition successfully, candidates will likely need higher levels of education – and the right set of skills to employ in the workplace.

Here are 5 critical skills needed:

1. Collaboration

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Tech and automation has the effect of bringing together different job functions – just think about how closely IT and Marketing has to work together to enable today’s digital marketing campaigns.

As a result, the importance of cross-functional teams and roles will come into greater focus for companies.

Critical to excelling in a cross-functional role is the ability to collaborate. This means honing the ability to work effectively with diverse groups and stakeholders – a challenge complicated by the rise in remote working.

Hone your collaboration skills by asking to work on projects that involve multiple departments, or intra-company initiatives that exposes you to new colleagues with different and unique viewpoints.

2. Influence

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The disportionate number of women in tech industries means those who are already in need to have their voices heard more than ever.

This means learning to cultivate influence, which is important in inspiring action from stakeholders, peers and subordinates alike.

By learning how to make your voice heard in a male-dominated workplace, and to feel comfortable doing so, women can make valuable contributions that steer technology away from inherent bias and towards true equality.

Try asking for increased responsibilities at work that also gives you more chances to provide input and work with other team leaders.

3. Empathy

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See, for the most part tech is great – until it loses sight of the customer and stops serving customer needs.

Leaders have always (and will always) need to be able to lead the conversation back to customer service.

Focusing on customer service provides strategic advantages that helps businesses differentiate themselves in the increasingly crowded marketplace.

Additionally, internal teams need management that understands and supports their needs in order for the business to thrive.

The key to achieving both is empathy.

Practise empathy whenever possible to forge connections and head off potential conflicts before they arise.

4. Problem-solving

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Work has become more and more complex, and will increasingly become so.

Add to that the fast-changing nature of technology in the workplace and you’ll see why employers are placing increasing value on problem-solving skills.

Anyone can – and must – learn new technology as they come out; that’s a given for professionals in a tech-centric future.

But not everyone has the ability to look at complex problems in new angles, and come up with creative solutions.

Build your problem-solving skills by learning as much about your sector as you can. And when the opportunity arises, don’t shy away from demonstrating them.

5. Adaptability

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As recently demonstrated by Covid-19, businesses wishing to remain competitive today must be able to pivot, adapt or evolve – often at lightning speeds.

This means that employers will increasingly favour candidates that demonstrate the core trait of adaptability, especially when filling core positions.

Adaptability is more than simply having transferable skills. It is the ability to ‘go with it’ when sudden and disruptive changes occur at work.

To gauge your degree of adaptability, notice your gut reaction when changes occur – do you tend to go with it, push back or do nothing?

This article was first published in Her World Online.