HomeEthics & SocietyInternational Women’s Day: The Gender Gap in AI

International Women’s Day: The Gender Gap in AI

With greater than a century having passed because the pioneering women of the early twentieth century began making strides within the workplace, gender inequality within the labour market must have been consigned to history way back.  But the sad reality is that there continues to be a really long option to go: even on essentially the most obvious metric – the gender pay gap – the world is just 68.4% of the option to equality, and at current rates will not be going to attain full parity for an additional 131 years.

If it weren’t bad enough to learn that gender equality is unlikely in our lifetimes, there are specific sectors and industries where the image is much more bleak: AI particularly is trailing the pack on equality of opportunity, with women accounting for under 22% of its professionals. Why is the number so low, and the way can we alter it? We, at DailyAI, take a look at the stats and sit down with Agnieszka Suchwałko PhD, COO of QuantUp, and Alysia Silberg, the founder and CEO of UnemployableAI to get an insider’s take a look at gender discrimination inside the industry:


AI jobs are booming, but not taken by women

There could be little question that AI as an industry is booming. Even going back to 2020, a LinkedIn report identified “Artificial Intelligence Specialist” as a top emerging job within the US market, and within the 4 years which have followed the role has seen hiring growth of a staggering 74% every year. The demand for workers within the sector is undoubtedly the strongest it has ever been, but the availability is proving to be decidedly male-focussed, and little has modified on that front for greater than a decade.

In light of this, Alysia feels it is crucial to spotlight the historical context that the unique coders were women, particularly through the mid-1900s wartime efforts. This underscores the foundational role women have played in the event of computing and technologyDespite the incontrovertible fact that women account for 47.7% of the worldwide workforce, and usually tend to hold each a bachelor and master’s degree than their male counterparts, nowadays they account for under 1 / 4 (26%) of all AI/data positions within the workplace.

Against this statistical backdrop, there could be no denying that there’s a huge glass ceiling within the AI industry, and in some ways it’s a systemic issue reasonably than a product of direct discrimination. It is most blatant and measurable from the profile of the present workforce, but it surely has its roots in a much earlier stage of life.


ICT has 500% more male graduates than female

Even before most future professionals begin to take into consideration entering the workplace, the seeds of disparity are fairly often already sewn by what are – seemingly not less than – free educational selections. Recent research by the World Economic Forum shows that the share of males taking degrees focussed on information and communication technologies is 8.2%, almost 500% higher than females who decide to concentrate on this area (1.7%).

None of that is to say that the resulting inequality is self-imposed. Far from it: it’s hardly surprising that so many smart and aspirational young women entering university feel that their education could be higher focussed on one other sector, not least because there are so few female faculty members within the tech world. The Stanford Institute for Human-Centred AI, for instance, found that ladies make up just 16% of AI-focussed tenure-track faculty.

Despite the rocketing growth of AI prior to now decade, nothing much is changing with this early and all-important feeder into the workforce. In 2019, for instance, women accounted for 22% of AI and computer science PhD programs in North America, with growth of just 4% from the identical statistical category in 2010. This snail’s-pace progression within the upper echelons of academia is a world problem, replicated worldwide, with the number of girls taking artificial intelligence and computer science PhDs stalling at around 20% for the past decade and currently shows no sign of shifting.


It was 20 years ago that Agnieszka selected to check for a level in Computer Science and he or she isn’t surprised to search out that little has modified over the past 20 years:


“In our [class] there have been three girls amongst greater than 20 guys. If someone had done a summary comparing the outcomes by gender, the difference would have been very clear. More was required of us, and we managed”.


Women expected to work in ‘purpose-related’ fields

Even for those courageous enough to tackle a male dominated field, attending to the purpose of qualification is just half of the struggle. By doctoral level, for instance, one in all Agnieszka’s female classmates had already moved into a unique area, while Agnieszka and the one remaining woman switched to a program with a more practical focus. During her PhD in Biocybernetics and Biomedical Engineering, Agnieszka found that she was often directed towards projects which had tangible applications, reasonably than more theoretical ones.

Agnieszka’s experience is on no account unique, and brings to life the hypothesis laid out by Emma Fernandez on the Esade 4YFN in March 2023, that girls are, from a young age and throughout their lives, pressured by society and stereotype to focus their energies on work that’s “purpose-related”. Technology is never perceived as something with a tangible purpose; it’s seen as a tool, reasonably than a way of achieving a measurable profit. This is after all a misconception, not least in view of the recent scientific and health breakthroughs attributable to artificial intelligence, but that doesn’t stop it standing in the best way of equality.

The point the Esade Panel were striving to make is that gender inequality within the technology world could be traced back even sooner than university – whilst far back as infancy – and is ingrained in our social structures. It begins with something as small and innocent because the language we use to speak to children in regards to the purpose of technology, while gendered toys and games help to instil society’s expectations about girls and boys. Robots and computer games, for instance, are still often seen as boys’ pursuit, leaving many women feeling out of touch with technology from a young age. This fuels a insecurity that manifests itself even in the fundamental stages of education, with recent research by Teach First revealing that 43% of ladies lack confidence in science, compared with only 26% of boys.


Fernandez puts the purpose in a nutshell:


“children never select things they don’t know”.


The path to equal representation within the tech field must, due to this fact, begin in school and there are plenty of relatively easy ways of creating real progress on this front, whether by up-skilling teachers or investing in STEM initiatives for young girls.

In Agnieszka’s view, we may benefit from going back further still to the preschool level.


“We have to concentrate on developing partnership relationships between the genders from an early stage… The future is as much as us”.


Alysia agrees that education is vital, but calls for a more diversified approach.


“Advancing gender equity in AI requires a multifaceted approach, including education, non-gendered tools, and promoting emotional intelligence. My mission aligns with the UNAI’s goals, emphasising the necessity for systemic changes to support women’s involvement in AI. By focussing on these areas, we will empower women to turn out to be leading forces in AI and technology, driving positive change and innovation for the betterment of society.”


Female representation in AI is vital

In November 2023, a 12 months after the launch of Chat-GPT, OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman was temporarily replaced by the corporate’s long-term CTO, Mira Murati, who has been named because the ‘most interesting women in technology’. While Murati has now relinquished the role to Emmett Shear, her influence lives on and he or she is credited with helping launch AI into the mainstream.

Unfortunately, nonetheless, Murati is the exception reasonably than the rule within the tech world. Young girls and teenagers have traditionally had only a few female role models within the AI sector, which in turn makes it that much harder to spark enthusiasm, let alone passion, for the sphere. While Elon Musk and Sam Altman are almost household names, vanishingly few may have heard of Fei-Fei Lin, who created ImageNet, or Elaine Rich, whose work established the foundations of AI research and paved the best way for further developments in the sphere.

Artificial intelligence, like science, also has a propensity to suffer from what has been dubbed ‘The Matilda Effect’: the tendency for ladies’s contributions to be missed, downplayed or attributed to male colleagues. Agnieszka now works alongside her husband and male partners who all the time take a look at the know-how and never the gender of the team, but she hasn’t all the time been capable of avoid prejudice:


“Unfortunately, even my husband didn’t imagine in me initially; although my mother-in-law continues to be an energetic architect today. So I repeated it like a mantra: “you probably did a doctorate, which suggests you aren’t any dumber than the lads you’re employed with”.


Alysia describes how with a view to get ahead she too needed to be accepted by her ‘male peers’ but was determined to not lose her identity in the method:


“My path has involved leveraging AI to level the playing field and normalise my voice in a site where I’ve often been one in all the few women within the room. Working alongside a number of the most modern founders in Silicon Valley has been each difficult and exhilarating. It has required me to navigate the nuances of being accepted as one in all the “boys,” all while maintaining my identity and integrity. My success on this field has not only been about fitting in; it’s been about breaking barriers and reshaping the landscape to be more inclusive and equitable for ladies.”


Like many ladies Alysia and Agnieszka each needed to work harder than their male colleagues with a view to prove themselves. Agnieszka didn’t allow this to knock her self-esteem:


“Confidence, particularly, is something that nobody can provide you with, and even assist you construct. People may attempt to make you are feeling bad about yourself, but you possibly can fight back. You are different from the people around you, and you understand it. Use that difference, for it’s your extraordinary power with which you’ll construct your good future”.


Mentorship is one of the simplest ways for ladies to learn from one another

There’s little question that Agnieszka and Alysia have each worked hard to get where they’re and fought off the naysayers along the best way. While it will be significant we recognise and have a good time these achievements, and people of other female tech pioneers like Mira Murati, true progress in the sphere will only come when women’s achievements aren’t any longer considered unusual or unexpected.

There is hope for change though, with organisations like WLDA (Women Leaders in Digital and AI), created by Asha Saxena, arising not only to encourage more women to enter the sphere, but additionally borne of a belief that mentorship and peer-to-peer feedback is one of the simplest ways for ladies to learn from and uplift one another.

This is something that Agnieszka can get behind:


“To get more women and girls taken with AI, we want real examples, real women’s stories, to indicate that it’s possible. People who’re mentors have authority: respect and influence. So they might help women and girls who dream of working in AI to see how their assets can speed up their careers and open doors within the AI industry. We need others who’re stronger than us to indicate us that we’re ok to do it.”


Alysia herself is each the Founder and General Partner of the investment firm Street Global, where she mentors tech startups and helps them go public:


“My commitment to mentoring and supporting the subsequent generation of girls in AI is rooted within the conviction that ladies possess all of the vital qualities to harness the ability of AI effectively. They bring unique perspectives, empathy, and a nuanced understanding of social implications which can be crucial for the moral development and deployment of AI technologies”.


WLDA’s focus is of course on empowering women to expand their leadership capabilities, but one in all their many strategies is to recruit male allies inside the industry, who can create impact in parity and equity. This echoes Agnieszka’s own skilled mantra, to support the strengths of every body no matter gender or age. Outside of mentoring programs, Agnieszka recognises that teamwork inside businesses is significant:


“I also imagine very much in the ability of a team. Any initiative with teamwork and sharing of responsibilities to indicate different perspectives of a challenge could be very worthwhile. In most cases, the difference between men and ladies is fictional relating to the work we do, and it’s as much as us to note it”.


Equality improves the standard of your product

71% of individuals imagine that adding more women to the AI and machine-learning workforce will bring much needed perspectives to the industry. There is an actual issue at present with natural language processing, a key component of common AI systems like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, developed primarily by men, demonstrating distinct and negative gender biases. Similarly, there have been issues with computer vision systems for gender recognition reporting higher error rates in recognising women, particularly those with darker skin tones. This is commonly attributed to an incomplete or skewed training data set, generated without adequate female input.

In Alysia’s experience it’s how we approach these discussions that’s of paramount importance:


“My experience in Silicon Valley has shown me the importance of shifting discussions from tokenism to proven ends in promoting gender equity”.


Agnieszka feels that this problem lies with the world at large and that technology shouldn’t itself be blamed for failing to be equitable and inclusive:


“The world still isn’t designed to satisfy the needs of men and ladies equally. I would love the phone to suit my hand and pocket just because it suits my husband’s hand and pocket. I would love the mannequin representing a lady utilized in crash tests to be not only a scaled-down mannequin of a person but to have a lady’s physiognomy taken under consideration. We as a society need profound change. Fortunately, it’s happening. We’re approaching the turning point”.


AI is becoming such a key component of on a regular basis life that there’s a risk of underrepresentation on this field having a wider impact on society, and setting back equality efforts across the board. Take the gendered nature of robotic systems, for instance: with robot waiters, receptionists and telemarketing bots invariably programmed by men to make use of female voices, there may be an obvious potential for gender stereotypes to be reinforced.

One crucial element that we frequently fail to debate in our countless debates about gender bias and stereotyping is, in Agnieszka’s eyes, our responsibility to make use of AI:


“Even though we learn about each side of AI (the bad and the great), as humans we’re still not desperate to unanimously select the appropriate side. So I even have to handle and emphasise that there isn’t a global and large pressure to tackle all types of bias in AI projects”.


UNESCO insists governments take motion

While Agnieszka feels that there isn’t a pressure to tackle these biases, UNESCO disagrees. In their Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence they address the incontrovertible fact that AI could also be trained on personnel datasets that represent pre-existing human-hiring biases, which regularly feature a robust male skew and will lead to AI-systems favouring male candidates over female ones. As a part of a targeted package of actions, they recommend dedicated funds for policies which support women and girls, to make sure that they’re adequately represented in AI systems.

UNESCO insists that governments must be implementing gender motion plans, for integration into national digital policies. Many would argue that steps resembling these are crucial for promoting and advancing women’s participation within the digital sector, but Agnieszka feels that imposing further regulation on the private sector isn’t the reply:


“We don’t need more restrictions. We need more enticements. Instead of introducing recent rules or obligations, we want to concentrate on supporting those organisations that base their development on hiring smart managers. This will result in more organisations wanting to be like them. You can’t change people’s minds with more bureaucracy”.


Alysia, nonetheless, feels that dedicated funding for gender-related schemes and integrating gender motion plans into national digital policies, are each essential measures for creating environments where women can thrive within the digital sector. This in turn will contribute significantly to technological advancements and innovation.

When it involves gender inequality, Agnieszka is adamant that corporations must be tackling this on the recruitment stage:


“Start with the people you hire. Rely on managers with strong reputations. They can create a supportive and inclusive environment for everybody. They will do internal audits to examine whether the hiring process relies on expertise reasonably than gender. They will hearken to everyone no matter gender, formal education, or seniority, showing that everyone seems to be worthwhile, each in their very own way, and that we’ll gain essentially the most by working together. As a Chief Operating Officer, I oversee whether the hiring process in my company is fair and whether people feel valued. It’s extremely necessary, because in AI if you must construct A-teams, you could have to pick different personas after which depend on them”.


Alysia agrees that it’s as much as AI organisations to make sure that they’re making a supportive environment for female colleagues:


“Organisations must create inclusive environments that encourage women to excel in AI. Recognizing the pivotal role of AI Engineers and the unique contributions women could make is crucial. By valuing the human factor and intelligence that ladies bring to the table, corporations can foster positive disruptions and advancements in AI technologies. Supportive policies, mentoring, and profession development opportunities are key to achieving this”.


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