Artificial IntelligenceWomen Leaders in Tech Outpace Men Counterparts in Generative AI Adoption

Generative AI (GenAI) is proliferating rapidly in the workplace and while women have historically been less likely to adopt new technologies than men have (especially in the early days), a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released today finds that women are generally on par with—or in some cases even slightly outpacing—men peers in terms of GenAI adoption, with notable variations across seniority levels and job functions.

The report, titled Women Leaders Are Paving the Way in GenAIdraws on data from a global survey of more than 6,500 women and men employees across GermanyIndiaJapan, the US, and the United Kingdom. These participants span four seniority levels and eight functions within the technology industry.

“Fewer than 30% of middle managers and senior leaders in tech today are women,” said Maria Barisano, a managing director and partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “GenAI presents a unique opportunity to narrow the gender gap in the tech industry, but it requires proactive actions from both companies and the women employed by them.”

Notable Variations in GenAI Usage Across Seniority Levels and Job Functions

According to the survey, 68% of women in the tech industry said they use a GenAI tool at work more than once a week, compared with 66% of men. Senior women in technical functions (engineering, IT, customer support, sales, and marketing) are ahead of their men counterparts in adopting GenAI. These senior individual contributors (ICs), junior managers, and senior managers lead their men peers by an average of 14 percentage points. Women senior managers in nontechnical functions (human resources, legal, and finance) are trailing their men peers by only 2 percentage points, while women junior managers and senior ICs are behind by 5 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively.

Junior women in technical roles lag their male counterparts by an average of 7 percentage points, a disparity that could exacerbate existing pipeline challenges in numerous tech companies. Those in nontechnical functions lag the most in adoption, at 21 percentage points, increasing the risk of losing gains in representation as GenAI continues to affect roles and career success.

Three Key Attributes Driving the Gender Difference in GenAI Adoption

Although men and women have similar levels of trust in GenAI tools to meet their objectives, and feel equally competent using them, the report identifies three significant factors that contribute to gender disparities in the adoption of GenAI.

  • Awareness of GenAI’s Criticality. Compared with men, senior women are similarly or even more aware of the potential impact of GenAI on job success, while junior women are less aware. Junior women are behind their men peers in both function types (15 percentage points behind in technical functions and 17 percentage points behind in nontechnical functions) and they trail senior women as well, by 24 percentage points and 31 percentage points in technical and nontechnical functions, respectively. By comparison, junior men in technical functions are on a par with senior men in those functions and only 13 percentage points behind senior men in nontechnical functions. This gap in awareness may be because junior women do not have the same access as junior men to the networks and discussions where GenAI strategy is formed and they are not equally represented in GenAI pilots and initiatives.

  • Confidence in GenAI Skills. Senior women in nontechnical functions lag their men peers by 8 percentage points, and junior women in all functions are behind—by 7 percentage points in technical functions and 11 percentage points in nontechnical functions. This lack of confidence is the only attribute in the research that explains why senior women in nontechnical functions who are aware enough and senior enough to understand that GenAI will be critical to their future success, lag their men colleagues in GenAI adoption. While there may be several reasons for junior women’s lack of confidence in their GenAI skills, research has shown that perception and exposure challenges exist for women in arenas largely occupied by men.

  • Tolerance for Risk. Senior women report a risk tolerance equal to or greater than their men peers in both technical and nontechnical functions, while junior women lag relative to their men peers (by 9 percentage points in technical functions and 16 percentage points in nontechnical functions). Senior women, having overcome numerous obstacles to reach their current positions, have developed the ability to take risks crucial for success. Conversely, junior women in technical roles often feel less free to experiment, especially with emerging technologies, due to their relatively lower levels of experience and authority.

Reducing the Gender Gap in the Tech Industry

Companies that are ready to pilot and scale GenAI can reduce the gender gap in the tech industry by tackling the three root causes of gender differences. This can be done through leadership advocacy and change management, targeted upskilling programs, a robust pilot design and clear responsible AI policies, and proactive career management. In addition, women can capture GenAI’s possibilities by proactively engaging and experimenting with the technology.

“Now, more than ever, companies must be hyper-focused on enacting measures that increase equity in GenAI’s adoption but also support all employees’ adoption of GenAI,” said Neveen Awad, a managing director and partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “They can begin to reduce gender gaps and generate outsize impact today by targeting their actions to individual cohorts.”

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