Women are under-represented in the field of AI!

The issue of low representation of women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics is one that is well known and documented. This problem is even more glaring in the field of Artificial Intelligence where, according to a recent World Economic Forum report, women hold a paltry 22% of jobs with an even lower number occupying senior positions in the field. This gap is evident in Machine Learning research as well with only 12% female representation. With a global estimate of 15% of women choosing careers in STEM compared to 18% in Europe (Harvard Business Review 2016), it is obvious that more female participation in these fields is urgently needed.

As AI becomes an indispensable aspect of industry, it is interesting to find that machine learning data, algorithms, and other design choices that shape AI systems tend to reflect and amplify existing cultural biases and prejudices, especially in the area of gender. This is so because a vast majority of the designers and programmers of AI systems are western males whose implicit biased thinking patterns are oftentimes transmitted to AI algorithms. One example that points to gender bias and stereotyping through data is the translation of gender-neutral phrases related to certain professions in some languages (such as Hungarian or Turkish) on Google Translate to gender-specific professions (eg. she is a nurse; he is a doctor). Or how when faced with sexual harassment, voice assistants, Siri, Alexa and Google Home respond with humour or flirtations. These clearly show how biased data can affect the very lives it was designed to help. If we fail to take significant actions, we are at the risk of constructing machine intelligence that reinforces and mirrors a narrow and privileged vision of society, with its gender biases and stereotypes.

It is therefore urgent to tackle the challenge of gender diversity in AI to increase the participation and visibility of women in the AI revolution while integrating AI development and design teams.

For this reason,  the AI4EU Platform is about to launch a dedicated Gender Diversity Space to support and promote the issue of gender diversity in AI and multiple initiatives around it. This space will be  backed by a 20- member Gender Committee which would steer the collective decision making process to address this challenge.

 

What is our Action Plan to help close the gender gap in AI?

The main objective driving this community is to "Promote women of all ages to embrace AI careers and favour gender balance in AI disciplines throughout the AI community in Europe”.

We have set ourselves an ambition to promote and animate a European Gender Community by leveraging on European AI stakeholders and existing gender diversity organizations within the AI4EU community and beyond.  

The Gender Diversity Space on the AI4EU Platform shall facilitate collaboration between AI gender diversity communities and stakeholders, encourage discussion and debates on the gender diversity aspects of AI, and increase the participation and representation of women role models and experts in the field.  

To tackle the challenge of Gender Diversity in AI, we are planning a week-long simultaneous action across Europe in the area of gender diversity. This Europe-wide initiative seeks to raise awareness on the need to have more female representation in AI. With this, we hope to generate interest among young women in STEM by highlighting the career opportunities and the paths to take to achieve their techy dreams. For women already in the field, this initiative will serve as a platform to share ideas, experiences and to build a formidable network of women working in AI on the continent. We should have this initiative rolled out within the first quarter of 2021, COVID-19 permitting.   

We need you for this initiative to be a success! If you want to contribute and have an idea to launch a gender diversity initiative, do well to contact Hanan Salam at hanan@womeninai.co, Marwa Chafii at marwa@womeninai.co, Violette Lepercq at violette.lepercq@ai4eu.eu for more information.

How can you help to make this a success?

  • Celebrating our Wairoes (Women in AI heroes) : As we work to increase the participation of women in the field of AI, it is also important to recognise and celebrate the ones who are already doing phenomenal work in our field. For this, we have initiated a weekly communication campaign by which we will feature each week, one of our AI champs on all our social media platforms. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else, kindly provide their name, job title, brief profile and your email address on the Women in AI group  and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.  
  • Discussion: As a first step, a discussion on Gender Diversity in AI has been initiated on the platform to collect comments, share experiences, best practices and  advice from you on the gendered aspect of AI. We encourage users to actively participate in this discussion on the platform to sustain the conversation and forge a way forward in getting more women on board. Join this discussion forum and let your voice be heard! Alternatively, you are welcome to create your own discussion platform on Gender Diversity in AI by following these simple steps:
  1. Go to the Discussion section under the ‘Collaboration’ tab
  2. Create a discussion forum page
  3. Under Category, select ‘Social life’
  4. Select ‘Gender Diversity in AI’ as a sub category
  5. Fill out the form and voila! your discussion has been activated
  • Women in AI Working Group: Relatedly, we have also set up a group on the platform to foster collaboration on gender diversity issues in AI. This link takes you to the Women in AI group where you get to interact and collaborate with other individuals and organisations with similar interests in building a more gender balanced AI field. In order to build a strong network of people who share an interest in  improving gender diversity in AI, kindly include in your profile the tags;  ‘Women in AI’ and ‘Gender Diversity’. And to find people who share these interests as you do, search for these tags under ‘People’.   
  • Organizations: Again, if you are part of an organization working toward gender diversity in AI or the tech field, we encourage you to register here after which you are welcome to  share AI  and gender related news in your organization page and the news section as well.

We encourage the use of this platform in fostering collaboration on gender diversity issues in AI among individuals and organisations with similar interests in building a more gender balanced AI field. If you are interested and willing to offer your support in any way, do not hesitate to contact Hanan Salam at hanan@womeninai.co, Marwa Chafii at marwa@womeninai.co, Violette Lepercq at violette.lepercq@ai4eu.eu