Summit Keynote: Role of Women in the Future World of Work

“You cannot leave half of the population behind and grow your economy. You need everybody taking part in the economic growth of a country and the world at large.” 

Gayani de Alwis
Gayani de Alwis

So pronounced Gayani de Alwis, then-global chairperson of Women in Logistics and Transport (WiLAT), during her keynote speech “Role of Women in the Future World of Work” at CARISCA’s 2023 Supply Chain Research Summit.

Held June 20-22 in Accra, Ghana, the summit brought together nearly 700 supply chain scholars, students, practitioners and policymakers around the theme “Africa’s Supply Chains and the Future World of Work.” 

As de Alwis described it, the future world of work will look different in three critical ways: 1) who does the work, 2) how the work is done, 3) when and where work is done. 

Who does the work will involve more part-time employees, gig workers and crowd-sourcing, de Alwis said. How the work is done will be more through automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. When and where work is done will revolve around remote work, fluid work schedules and co-located work spaces.

“As organizations, as individuals, we need to understand these new developments and see how we can really fit into that,” said de Alwis. “In the next five to six years, there will be 12 million new jobs entering the world of work. So we have to be ready for this new reality.”

De Alwis said the future world of work is geared toward traits typically ascribed to women. These include compassion, humility, resilience, cooperation and emotional intelligence.

“Research has been done to show that women are more effective than men in all leadership measures,” said de Alwis. “But, we don’t see many women breaking the glass ceiling and going up the career ladder and reaching to the top.”

This is especially true in male-dominant industries, such as logistics and supply chain, she noted. Currently, women hold only 21% of leadership roles in the field.

“You cannot leave half of the population behind and grow your economy. You need everybody taking part in the economic growth of a country and the world at large.”

“But in the future world of work, when we move into highly technologically demanding environments, the traits that females have will really help to drive organizational effectiveness,” said de Alwis.

She said Africa is ahead of the game because female labor force participation is already higher than average when compared to other parts of the world. According to the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report, it will take 132 years for women to achieve gender parity globally, reported de Alwis. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it will take only 98 years.

Advancing women’s employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP and boost some countries’ economic output by as much as 35%, she shared.

“The business case is very clear,” said de Alwis. “It’s a huge benefit to economies, especially in our part of the world.”




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