As artificial intelligence (AI) technologies infiltrate an increasingly diverse array of fields, from healthcare to shipping, the role of women in AI is growing.
Currently, 22 per cent of the world’s AI professionals are women. Artificial intelligence needs women programmers to avoid the implicit gender bias that has emerged in a number of high profile AI projects, from Amazon’s recruitment algorithm which ignored viable female candidates to AI programs in healthcare taking inaccurate diagnostic approaches on the assumption that every patient is white and male. By encouraging education and boosting roles for women in AI, algorithms will be able to draw from a more diverse data set and minimise the potential for biased results.
In June 2018 Women in AI (Wai), an advocacy group devoted to raising the profile of female experts and professionals in the field, held its inaugural summer camp in Paris for teenage girls to learn the basics of AI and robotics. Wai holds regular networking events for the growing community of women working in artificial intelligence research and development, as well as educational programmes for schools and workshops which encourage businesses to train and employ female AI workers.
Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has announced a five-day event promoting women in AI to be held in Israel in early March 2019. The Global Business Innovation Programme for Women Innovators in Artificial Intelligence & Data with Israel, aimed at encouraging diversity in emerging technologies and promoting women in business in the UK, will enable UK-based, women-led small and medium enterprises focusing on machine learning, AI, data analytics and big data to build connections, find potential investors and share new ideas.
While women in AI work to support each other, that support has not always been forthcoming from the majority male-dominated AI industry. Women working in tech companies have reported sexist treatment and attitudes from male colleagues, while research papers predominantly written by women are referenced demonstrably less than those comparable papers produced by male researchers. By increasing diversity in AI, its potential for harm and negative effects are quantifiably reduced. Joelle Pineau, of Facebook’s AI division in Montreal, said: “We have more of a scientific responsibility to act than other fields because we’re developing technology that affects a large proportion of the population.”