The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) was, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. However, it is unfortunate to witness fewer women in Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While there is indeed an increase in the number of women who study STEM programs in college and take STEM jobs, facts on women in STEM reveal that their percentage in these fields is dropping. To make things dismal, women are paid less. For every $1 a male founder makes, his female counterpart earns 39 cents, and women of color make even less.
At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. According to UNESCO data (2014 – 2016), only around 30 percent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%) and in engineering, manufacturing, and construction (8%).
It is not surprising that despite growing on scholarships and recognition offered to women, the number in STEM are scanty. While other sectors like law, hospitality, socio-psycho sciences, etc. continue to flourish the technical sector presents us grim figures. The ratio of men and women employees at Google is 3:1. So what is it that holding them back:
- Social Bias: The deep-rooted social stereotyping has been driving young minds from pursuing careers in science-related fields. Women generally are not encouraged by their families to pursue education let alone a career in science. These archaic thoughts pushed upon them leads them to believe that they are more suited for submission and serving the patriarchy.
- Sexism: Due to existing prejudice, women are not acknowledged for their contributions as much as their masculine colleagues. Even Nobel Committee is notorious for this oversight. Rosalind Franklin, a British Biophysicist, whose X-ray research data helped Francis Crick and James Watson discover DNA is a classic case of how we fail women around the globe when Nobel did not recognize her effort.
Not only that, but women are also considered inferior and made inferior in workplace environments. Hence STEM fields are viewed as masculine to this date.
- Pay Gap: If women enduring indignities in the male-dominated world of science and technology were not already enough, less pay scale and scholarship opportunities further discourage them.
While AI and Machine Data continue to transform our lives through innovative solutions, it is not devoid of the ignorance of women’s key players either.
Why do we need women in AI:
Although facial recognition features are deemed foolproof, they may not provide accurate results when it comes to people of color and diverse gender identities. This is because the algorithms are predominately designed by privileged white men.
This creates hindrance in accepting AI as future tech, due to ethical issues.
Introducing women in the team will help AI to develop unbiased and more rational functioning.
What can we do:
Role Models: Lack of prominent role models to has dispirited female minds while choosing a career in STEM. Hence magazines like NatGeo, Vogue are running specials where they highlight exponent women luminaries in their respective fields.
IPSoft’s Women in AI initiative has been recently launched to shine a light on prominent female figures in STEM, showcasing the incredible work that these professionals have accomplished in “adopting and promoting AI technologies in their companies and organizations.”
In addition to IPsoft, IBM’s #SheCanStem campaign and the US Chamber of Commerce #LightaSpark campaign have both worked to highlight the gender gap in STEM, AI, and data science fields by utilizing workshops and educational initiatives across the globe in order to effectively translate the critical, rewarding, and beneficial STEM message to girls and young women.
Skill Campaigns: Teaching girls math and science skills. Interventions designed to promote a “growth mindset” (viewing intelligence as a changeable, malleable attribute that can be developed through effort over time) among students as opposed to a “fixed mindset” (viewing intelligence as an inborn, uncontrollable trait) benefit girls in math and science, because girls with a growth mindset are less affected by stereotype threat.
Furthermore, encourage them to develop spatial skills as it will help them become confident. As a result, they are more inclined to prefer STEM subjects from the school level.
Better Hiring: Here AI can hugely contribute to removing the biased grounds while an organization or college looks for a potential candidate. The use of such recruitment software, will significantly improve the gender distribution ratios and make the hiring process more efficient. More numbers, more demands to improve work experience, salary issues, etc.
Leading AI Teams: Women tend to have Collaborative Leadership Style by showing more customer empathy and willingness to collaborate.
This can help AI to build up a better team with different stakeholders across age and gender pyramid by showcasing more ‘human world values’ like empathy, cooperation, and encouragement.
All the above-mentioned initiatives can bridge the gender deficiency in the STEM sectors. On a personal level, we can ensure that women receive equal chances and representation to propel development to further heights. And this active participation, especially in AI, can benefit us with the mature technology revolution.