I remember reading a number of stats about the 2008/2009 Global recession and there was one stat that stood out to me – it was how the downturn hit males harder than ever before in previous downturns.  The unemployment rate was much higher (as well as the length of time to find a new role) for males versus females, and by a wide margin.

The reason?  The layoffs were concentrated in many areas that typically employ a higher percentage of men, such as in manufacturing, the trades and construction.

In this new era of Big Data and Robots, this may seem more like the norm than a trend...

Technological advances have often hit many traditional male roles first

When the Industrial revolution began, machines were able to replace much of the manual labour that existed at the time.  In fact, some areas, like agriculture, now employ as few as 5% of the workers that they would have then.  Since the majority of these jobs were filled by males, it makes sense that they would get hit the hardest.

The same holds true for much of the advancement today in the world of Business IoT.  While we all tout how giving companies better information allows them to be "more productive", this mostly refers to how they are able to do more work with, either they cut staff to do the existing workload or they increase their work without increasing their headcount.

Many of today's jobs would not exist if better technology existed decades ago

One of the businessmen from history that I admire is Henry Ford.  He managed to put together a system that is still basically used today by most automobile manufacturers.  However, knowing how progressive Ford was, is it hard to imagine that he would have never employed humans to build cars if robots were available back then?  I mean, Ford once referred to people as saying "one of the problems with humans is that their two hands come with a brain".  The only reason why he used people was because that was all he had.

Women will do better than men in this new era, and not why you may think

I don't want to stereotype men vs. women, in terms of traditional roles.  There are some excellent male teachers and nurses, as there are many excellent tradespeople who are women...that has nothing to do with why women will succeed better.

The reason is that one of the important skills that robots cannot do as well as humans is interact.  Sure, they can be taught to read certain body movements and gestures, but they are not great at interacting.  This requires the ability to be caring, have empathy and to be able to better support your fellow worker.....things that, let's face it, guys just are not typically as good at.

It is no secret that while the number of manufacturing jobs have declined in the past decade, jobs that require interaction with people as part of the day to day function have not.

It's not all doom and gloom

I can only imagine if we had Twitter back in the beginning of the Industrial revolution, we would have heard all kinds of doom and gloom.  Millions of people had their jobs replaced by machines, and I am sure that this caused huge hardship for them and their families.  However, as a society, we not only bounced back, but we thrived...and we will do this again.

The Bottom Line

No one ever likes to lose their job.  It is difficult from a financial standpoint and for many, it is equally difficult from an emotional standpoint.  However, change always has and always will happen, so it is important that young workers get the skills that they need to compete with not only the global workforce, but also the next generation of technology.