Skills are changing everywhere, but they’re not changing at the same rate for everyone. Some occupations are more disrupted than others–and the impact is different by gender.
In a Lightcast analysis, the occupations seeing the most skill change are in male-dominated fields, such as Data Engineer, Web Developer, and technician jobs. Occupations that skew female—which are often in healthcare, administration, and education—are less likely to be disrupted. This may be yet another barrier when it comes to moving more women into high-tech roles.
Earlier this year, a collaborative research report from Lightcast, The Burning Glass Institute, and BCG showed how the skills listed in job postings have changed and what those changing priorities signaled about the future of work.
The report was called Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce, and its findings were dramatic. Overall, 37% of the top 20 skills requested for the average US job have changed since 2016, and one in five skills is completely new. Moreover, the pace of skill change is accelerating—according to the Lightcast database of job postings, nearly three-quarters of jobs changed more from 2019 to 2021 than they did from 2016 to 2018.
To clearly and consistently identify and compare the rate of change across different occupations, the researchers developed a tool called the “Skill Disruption Index,” (SDI) which scored every job title in the Lightcast library according to how much it had changed over the past five years.
But beneath the top-line data used in the report itself, the Skill Disruption Index also provides a way to take a closer look at patterns and trends through other lenses—including gender.
Here’s what we found in the data about how skill change has affected men and women differently. First, the top 15 occupations that have seen the most skill change are all male-dominated.
This fits in with a larger pattern of technological changes driving much of the skill change seen in occupations across all industries. New technologies create the need for new skills, so it naturally follows that the occupations that rely most on technology (which skew male) are those seeing the most change.
While male-dominated jobs requiring at least a bachelor’s degree score highest on the SDI, the occupations seeing the most change in male-dominated fields requiring less than a BA are also in positions that rely on technical knowledge.
Because the tech industry, and technical roles overall, are sources of high-paying jobs with the high potential for career growth and upward mobility, creating more inclusion for women in the field is a tangible way to promote equity in the labor market, as well as build prosperity for individual workers and their communities.
Another Lightcast report, in collaboration with the digital education nonprofit Npower, showed that millions of women already have many of the skills necessary to find tech jobs, and only need a small amount of additional training to find those new jobs. While that initiative—The Equation for Equality—focuses on women of color in particular, its lessons are broadly applicable. The challenge for those hoping to complete or enable that training, though, is to make sure they are acquiring skills that will remain relevant.
Looking at all jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or more, there is a negative relationship between the proportion of women in an occupation and its skill change score. In other words, the more women work in these jobs (according to our data), the less likely it is to see high skill disruption.
One of the fields seeing the greatest impact from skill change in the past few years has been Marketing/PR, a field where women are more likely to hold jobs. As such, those positions are among those seeing the highest rate of change of female-dominated jobs requiring more than a bachelor’s degree. Among those not requiring a degree, jobs related to public and community health and administration saw the most change.
Because skill change is fast-paced and pervades the entire job market, staying aware of these changes is vital for keeping up and getting ahead. For men and women alike, understanding these trends creates an opportunity to better understand not only their own roles, but its place in the global labor market, and what skills they need to get ahead.
For more about how fast jobs are changing, download a free copy of the Shifting Skills, Moving Targets, and Remaking the Workforce report.