Artificial intelligence (AI) is failing to engage women as equal partners in shaping the future. Today, far too few women are involved in the research, creation, and deployment of what promises to be a transformative technology in the 21st century. There is mounting evidence that without the input of women, the technology has been left vulnerable to an alarming number of biases. Equally, there are concerns that programs are being designed using datasets that either underweight or overlook factors that adequately reflect women as equals in society. These shortcomings and omissions have led to software applications that are flawed or impractical. Over the long term, they may lead to still graver consequences in the years ahead. The net result is that today, even as we begin to witness AI’s vast potential to change our lives, there are already signs that a lack of diversity and inclusion will negatively impact automation’s future. Humanity stands at a critical juncture just as AI technology starts to spread across every sector of society and industry. Close the inclusion gap and we improve our chances of harnessing AI as a tool to right existing disparities. If we miss the opportunity before us, however, there is a real risk that for upcoming generations the disparities we see today will worsen.
Below are some considerations of a more diverse and inclusive AI industry.
- As arguably the most disruptive technological change taking place in our lifetime, AI will have the power to channel the radical societal and economic changes ahead to lower barriers to women’s advancement in society.
- The effort to expand research, build new applications, and analyse data stands to benefit from a broader pool of knowledge fed by the contributions and insights of women and men both working together. Greater levels of participation by women will benefit AI, drawing from more viewpoints, empathy, and fairness. Diversity will help the technology realise its boundless potential to revolutionise healthcare, education, social services, and the global economy.
- Greater diversity will help to provide everyone with an increased share of the upcoming economic boom generated by sweeping technological innovation. That, in turn, could narrow the gender pay differential around the world.
- AI has already endured formidable setbacks due to biased assumptions and insufficiently representative data. Face-recognition and translation software are just two examples of applications that were hampered or ultimately flawed as a result of data problems like these. During critical design stages, more diverse and inclusive development teams can help pinpoint issues. That, in turn, will help AI steer away from a treadmill of costly and time-consuming revisions and corrections.