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Spring 2020
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CTDO Magazine

Opportunities for Women to Shine

Jobs increasingly require soft, fundamental, and social skills—and women are filling those roles.

More and more, US businesses are in pursuit of workers with strong interpersonal skills, such a persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and creativity. That's according to the LinkedIn Learning 2020 Workplace Learning Report. Emotional intelligence cracked the top five must-have skills for the first time this year, underscoring the importance of how employees interact with each other.

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To create the rankings, LinkedIn Learning used data from its network of more than 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs to see which skills are in the highest demand relative to the supply of people who have those skills. The soft skills with the highest need all "demonstrate how [people] work with others and bring new ideas to the table," says Amanda Van Nuys, a group manager for LinkedIn Learning.

For instance, according to the study, collaboration delineates people who can work effectively and efficiently to achieve a common goal or influence others to the right end game. Meanwhile, persuasion is convincing others to buy into your idea or a different way of doing things to build consensus or make a decision, which Van Nuys contends is "one of the most powerful communication skills for all employees to have in their skill set."

This analysis concurs with new data from Pew Research Center that reports that hiring has expanded most rapidly in the past four decades for jobs requiring social and fundamental skills, including roles in administrative support, healthcare, sales, education, and management.

Based on an analysis of the Occupational Information Network, a database of occupational information developed under the sponsorship of the US Department of Labor, Pew reports that from 1980 to 2018, overall employment more than doubled in jobs where social skills (such as social perceptiveness, persuasion, and instructing) and fundamental skills (such as active listening, critical thinking, and judgment and decision making) are most important, by 111 percent and 104 percent, respectively.

And that's good news for women. In 2018, 42 percent of all workers—or 65 million—held jobs in which social skills were most important, and that number rose to nearly three in four for working women.

"Women are in the vanguard of meeting these challenges," writes Rakesh Kochar, a senior researcher at Pew, adding that women "have made their presence felt more strongly in jobs with the greatest reliance on these types of skills."

Here's why this is important: Jobs that rely heavily on social, fundamental, analytical, and managerial skills pay more. According to Pew, in 2018, jobs where social skills are most important—for example, sales managers—paid a mean hourly wage of $29. Pew analysis estimates that women's increase in high fundamental and social skill jobs has raised their earnings by 4 cents to the dollar, when compared with men's earnings.

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When paired with organizational efforts to end pay disparities, the growing presence of women in jobs requiring social skills is helping to narrow the gender wage gap.


Top 15 Occupational Skills

  1. Active listening
  2. Speaking
  3. Critical thinking
  4. Reading comprehension
  5. Monitoring
  6. Judgment and decision making
  7. Social perceptiveness
  8. Complex problem solving
  9. Coordination
  10. Writing
  11. Time management
  12. Active learning
  13. Service orientation
  14. Instructing
  15. Persuasion

Source: Pew Research Center

Read more from CTDO magazine: Essential talent development content for C-suite leaders.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently sources and authors content for TD Magazine and CTDO, as well as manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs. Contact her at [email protected] 

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