Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the world as we know it. But where are all the women in AI? Can we be sure that the future that AI shapes will be an equal one?
Accenture estimates that AI could change the nature of work and double annual economic growth by 2035. Yet only 12 percent of machine learning researchers are women.
With AI set to make such a massive global impact, steps need to be taken to redress the gender balance.
AI and unconscious bias
It is important that AI teams embrace the concept of internal diversity. With the best will in the world, every person is biased. Unconscious bias is an inalienable part of human nature.
Wired reviewed Google’s AI research pages and noted that only 10 percent of the 641 people working on “machine intelligence” were women.
Like all tech, AI is an extension of its creator. When predominantly male teams work on AI, the technology that shapes our future may inherit their biases.
Soon, it is likely we will default to AI to make decisions for us and perform a wide range of tasks. Should AI play this role when the needs of half of the population may not have been factored into its programming?
When technology is developed to meet the needs of a diverse audience, that diversity needs to be reflected in the team that creates it. Only by building diverse teams can we create AI capable of shaping a future that is inclusive and balanced.
The importance of role models
One of the issues with the lack of diversity in AI is that it is, by its nature, self-perpetuating. With so few women in the industry, speaker panels easily become male-dominated. This can have a negative impact on the women in AI pipeline.
It could be said that male-dominated speaker line-ups are an accurate representation of gender ratios within the industry. But this thinking fails to consider the impact that the gender makeup of these events has on the next generation.
As the adage goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. The lack of women conference speakers makes it hard for female students, graduates, and career starters to picture themselves excelling in the AI industry.
The organisation Women in Machine Learning maintains a list of women in AI who are available to speak at conferences. This simple initiative makes it easier for conference organisers to ensure their line-up is gender balanced.
The AI skills gap
The demand for new talent to step into AI roles just keeps rising. According to Stanford University’s AI Index, the share of jobs requiring AI skills has grown 4.5 times since 2013.
Organisations like Women in AI (WAI) are using community action to educate, inspire, and support more women to take up these AI roles.
Arti Nokhai from IBM, one of WAI’s partners, emphasises the importance of the organisation’s work on their website:
“Now is the time for us all to learn about AI and start embracing its advantages in a responsible and ethical way. That's where WAI plays an important role as members gain knowledge, build their network of peers, and contribute to the industry's diversification. Seeing more AI-empowered decision makers who are women is critical for the non-biased AI future.”
Not only is in the tech world in desperate need of more women in AI, but we all are. AI is set to change the future of work and shape our global economy for years to come.
Like all technology, AI may inherit the unconscious biases of the teams that make it. With AI set to automate tasks and decisions that impact us all, it is important that it is developed with a gender-balanced understanding our needs.
We are on the brink of another tech revolution. Let’s make it an equal one. Now is an exciting time to step into a career in AI and help work towards a more inclusive technological future.If you’re considering a career in AI, our professional development courses can equip you with the skills needed to transition into an AI role. Get in touch with our expert career consultants today.