Artificial intelligence and the gender gap – what can be done? | Coursera Community
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Artificial intelligence and the gender gap – what can be done?

  • 10 January 2019
  • 7 replies
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"A report from the World Economic Forum has found there is a significant gender gap in artificial intelligence, and global gender parity will take 108 years to achieve."

Read the full Computer Weekly article here: Less than a quarter of AI professionals are women

And here's the WEF report cited in the article: Global Gender Gap Report 2018, specifically this section: Assessing Gender Gaps in Artificial Intelligence. Here are some excerpts:

"Over the past four years, the rate at which women and men have acquired AI skills has progressed in tandem ... While skills expansion across both genders ebbs and flows in the same rhythm, the absolute number of women who indicate they have AI skills on LinkedIn is much lower..."

"The patterns identified in this analysis reiterate a common concern: fewer women are currently engaged in the creation of Artificial Intelligence and other innovative technologies. The diversity—including gender diversity—of views among innovators is vital to ensuring the economic opportunities created by AI do not increase existing gender inequalities, and that new AI systems serve the needs of society at large. It is of critical importance to reverse these trajectories at this early stage of professional expansion for innovative sectors and ensure that Artificial Intelligence is a field that is inclusive by design. Additionally, low integration of women into the AI talent pool, even in industries and geographies where the base of IT talent has a relatively high composition of women, reduces the diversity dividend among applications of these skills and indicates a significant missed opportunity in a professional domain where there is already insufficient supply of adequately qualified labour."

An interesting question posed by Sue Duke in this companion piece is: Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close?

As a woman, I find the global gender gap – in AI and in other fields – incredibly disheartening.

What do you think? Will AI make the gender gap in the workplace harder to close? What can be done?

7 replies

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To this I would say Laura, that fundamentally the education is the root of this problem. To address the gender gap and the host of problems it brings, the elitism in education has to be addressed. By this, I mean that women are deterred in pursuing STEM fields like AI and Computer Science due to societal pressures and education requirements like the GRE and the like. To me, standardized tests systematically weed out creative contenders, so ultimately the system-abiding test takers survive. I for one believe it is women who possess greater amount of ingenious creativity if given the chance. They have the fresh pair of eyes and perspective that the "big boys" seem to be missing. In my opinion, a woman performs better under all conditions such as stress by a large factor. You could attribute this to biology or simple conditioning. The fact of the matter is if we want the gender gap to disappear then it is our so called education paradigm and institutions that have lead the change with addressing the creativity and autonomy in the female individual. To that effect, let's hope education truly becomes a method of collective enhancement in which the world''s problems are addressed and learned from and not a cesspool of "feel good" bureaucracy and imitative hand-waving.
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Hi @Sunny_Mann2464. Interesting points! I see evidence that education nonprofits are leading this change, with lots of initiatives aimed at STEM opportunities for girls, like Girls Who Code, IGNITE Worldwide, and Girlstart, to name just a few. As for educational institutions ... they tend to take longer to change, but I agree that they must spearhead efforts to reduce inequity (of all kinds).

A recent UNESCO report titled I'd blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education finds that "AI-powered voice assistants with female voices are perpetuating harmful gender biases." That quote is the first line of this BBC article, Female-voice AI reinforces bias, says UN report. It's unbelievable how ingrained female subservience is in most societies. Another interesting piece on this topic is here: The Real Reason Voice Assistants Are Female (and Why it Matters).
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The role of the female in my mind is not of assistance but of nurturing perspective, through out history it has been women who have gone the mile more often than none while the men have been busy infighting on the “playground”. I mean where it matters try and place a female in that role and will see with the right tools and resources she will definitely take a holistic approach and outperform on several metrics. It boils down to a simple thing I like to call the “wired advantage” and women tap into this when given role and responsibilities, they design their surroundings dynamically and adapt structurally. Structure is key in the female design, and extra attention is given to the little details, the little things often dismissed as “operations” in the day-to-day.
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I appreciate your interest in this topic, @Sunny_Mann2464. There's plenty of evidence showing the positive ripple effects of educating girls and women, including improved health outcomes and economic prosperity. Do others in your community share your views? Can/do you talk about this, or is it considered too sensitive?
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This topic is solemnly discussed at very basic level and to be honest it varies person-to-person. Like there is the consensus that there should be equal rights and empowerment, but I feel no one peels back the “layers” and address the depths of systematic bias and the like which arise fundamentally from the current state of the system. I apologize if I came off strong, but in my discussion of this topic I felt we needed to right to the heart of the matter. I try to discuss the “layers” when I can, explaining that is much more than a simple case of empowerment. Alongside empowerment, I believe that the system in which the female operates has to be cleared so that empowerment can truly run its course.
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No need to apologize, @Sunny_Mann2464! I'm enjoying hearing your thoughts– thank you!
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Glad to make your acquaintance as well!

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