Artificial intelligence (AI) offers us nowadays many possibilities to enhance our daily lives from weather forecasting to navigation applications and digital smart assistants or media recommendations. When talking about the benefits of artificial intelligence, we also have to highlight its possible negative impact on society, such as gender bias in AI.
Global studies show that female workers are still under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. Women account for only 26 % of the workforce worldwide in Data and Artificial Intelligence according to a World Economic Forum report from 2020 about the future of gender parity. This low percentage demonstrates the need for higher female participation in Artificial Intelligence. In a world that should work for everyone, women must have a say on the development of technology, its deployment and its impact. Thus, the whole potential of AI can just be realized if it creates diversity, inclusion and gender equality.
What can we as individuals, society, companies and state do concretely to promote women in these areas?
1. First of all, by encouraging girls at a young age to participate in STEM education and boosting girls´ confidence in their ability to excel in STEM careers. The main issue is to break down traditional and outdated ways of thinking so that more women enter the tech industry.
2. The state should initiate free educational programs specifically for women to support them in a career change to a data-driven profession.
3. Associations for Big Data and AI such as Women in AI can raise awareness on gender bias in technology and science (e.g. how smart digital assistants such as Alexa or Siri reinforce gender bias) and motivate women to participate in a STEM career.
4. Exposure to female role models: Successful and inspiring women in technology are role models for younger girls. It´s important that women share their experiences in AI and emphasize the opportunities and benefits of a career in tech. Greater visibility of female role models increases the likelihood that more women will identify themselves with the tech sector („This is for me!“) and apply for the positions in technology.
5. Offering mentoring programs for female leadership by giving advice, valuable feedback and industry know-how. Moreover, female networks such as Women in AI help women to meet like-minded people and support each other in their tech careers.
6. Create equal opportunities for men and women with reference to hiring processes in companies. Bias occurs in job advertisements using gendered language in job titles and descriptions or in the hiring process when judging candidates. Furthermore, companies should be open to professional lateral entrants.
7. Equal pay for men and women in the technology sector, as well as flexible work models and working hours to adapt to caregiving responsibilities.
8. Men have to be on board too: men in particular should also take a stand and speak out on the issue. What´s more: Not only do we need more women in technology and leadership, but also fewer (white) men.
Let´s create a fair and ethical future of AI together!
More and more tech companies become aware of the fact that that mixed teams foster innovation, improve quality and performance, and add monetary value. Within the AI industry women can excel personally as well as professionally and build digital products in order to add real value to society.
Women in AI Austria supports this vision as well. If you are eager to shape a gender equal AI future with us, then join us: https://www.womeninai.at/mitglied-werden/
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Text by Nicole Kirowitz. She is a member of Women in AI Austria and supports the Marketing team. As a studied psychologist and experienced project and communication manager in the tech sector, she promotes a sustainable and ethical use of technology.