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How AI is impacting older women's access to employment

What is AI-assisted Recruitment?

In 2022, Dr Caroline Keen explored how the digitalisation of work, the labour market, and AI-assisted recruiting tools may be impacting on older women job seekers.

​For older women who may be trying to find that next role, re-enter mainstream work, who have been self-employed or working in non-standard and part-time roles getting back into work is challenging. We know that women face both gender and age discrimination as they age. What we do not know is how the rapid digitalisation of work is affecting women's employment outlook as they age.

Further, in the last few years AI has become pervasive within the recruiting industry and promises to bring new efficiencies in the sourcing and selection of job seekers. But what will be the effects of AI on older women job seekers in the future?

Will AI bring new opportunities or challenges for older women who are already subject to discrimination in the job market in the future? How will AI technology impact the hiring and recruitment process for older women job seekers in the future? What potential biases will AI-assisted recruiting tools may introduce in the hiring process for older women job seekers in the future? And how can we ensure that the integration of AI in the recruitment industry is inclusive and equitable for older women job seekers in the future?

While AI-assisted recruiting tools are a relatively new concept experts have already raised concerns about the potential biases that might be introduced in the process. These questions have not yet been explored, and the impacts of AI-assisted recruitment tools used by most corporations and many recruiters supplying AI recruitment services to SMEs are not yet understood.

Our research

Sociodigital Research is an organisation that focuses on analysing the social effects of technology through qualitative research.

​Dr Caroline Keen led the research. She interviewed 22 older women job seekers from professional occupations to uncover the challenges they face in access sustainable employment as they age, and to uncover underlying themes and potential biases introduced by AI in the recruiting process.

​This research intends to:

​Uncover elements in the modern labour market that could potentially limit older women's access to employment.

  • Identify mechanistic and human barriers to older women's employment.

  • Explore the impact of AI on the success of older women in the labour market.

  • Investigate gender and age discrimination within the context of the digital labour market.

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Key insights..

Women's life course constrains their access to training, particularly digital skills training, which can limit their employability later in life.

This study also highlights that life course employment gaps can also lead to technology gaps as well, which is an added barrier for older women who are trying to re-enter the mainstream workforce.

Most older women interviewed experienced digital ageism in a youth-oriented labour market, which is discrimination based on the stereotype that older women are less digitally savvy than their younger co-workers and unable to keep up to date with new digital applications.

Additionally, women perceived a significant age gap between themselves and recruiting agents, and their co-workers was perceived and saw this as a primary barrier to finding new employment opportunities.

The research also highlights that digital upskilling later in life can be a costly and uncertain endeavour for older women, as it requires a personal investment of time and money, with no guarantee return on investment (ROI) in terms of improved employment opportunities or remuneration.

Furthermore, it also found that the ever-increasing scale of digital skill requirements listed on job descriptions were a significant barrier for older women seeking employment, leading to a decrease in the pool of applicants.

It also found that older women experience diminishing cultural capital in the labour market as they age, with their historical experiences and education being seen as less valuable than ‘current’ work experiences.

AI-assisted recruitment processes can be problematic for older women, as these tools can perpetuate existing age and gender biases without their knowledge, and results in their decreased agency over their employment.

Older women have a low awareness of AI-assisted recruitment tools, and many have little motivation to build new forms of digital capital to compete in the labour market which can significantly reduce their agency in the job search process and ultimately their access to employment opportunities.

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Our mission

Our mission at Sociodigital Research is to reveal the potential challenges and risks of using AI. We are particularly interested in how AI will affect the agency and well-being of today's older women as they seek to support themselves well past retirement age. We plan to do further research exploring the use of AI-assisted recruiting tools, and to offer critical insights and solutions to address them.

As technology continues to restructure society at warp speed many are at risk of falling behind without the necessary digital skills and digital capital to leverage themselves in the digital space.

In this study we aim to bring attention to the potential negative impacts of AI-assisted recruiting tools, and work towards creating more equitable, inclusive, and fulfilling work environments.

In future research we hope to explore how the recruiting industry use AI in New Zealand, and what awareness there is to counter  potential bias against older women and other vulnerable groups. We need a balanced view of organisational hiring processes and job seeker challenges to provide recommendations to counteract discrimination. 

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