The gender-gap in tech is nothing new – for a very long time, men have been more drawn to STEM-fields in general, and technology in particular – but efforts are being made to rectify this little by little. Universities and other higher educational institutes specifically target girls for their tech programmes, and even schools encourage them to participate in science fairs and the like… but even so, the improvements are slow, and they don’t happen everywhere just yet.
Is it just about the demographics?
Data science and AI are pretty good examples of this. There is still a huge skills gap when it comes to genders in this field, and it’s not showing signs of closing just yet. Not a lot is being done to get young people interested – to be fair, this isn’t just a gender problem, but a diversity issue in general. Poorly represented groups such as people of color are even less present in the field of AI, and even in countries as diverse as the UK, this is keenly felt.
Only 6% of the engineering workforce in the country is female, for example, and even in the tech sector in general, only 17% are female. Those aren’t great numbers, even though they are an improvement over, say, ten years ago. If this seems like an abstract issue to you, it’s not – only recently, a female-founded ecommerce site called Witchsy struggled to get off the ground. One of the founders invented a ‘Keith Mann’, a fictional male co-founder… and just like that, Keith got more polite and friendly responses, not to mention more positive answers. Though of course not representative of every case, this story does paint a very specific picture, and not a pretty one.
Making better decisions with data?
Women are often excluded from access to capital and resources – not openly, of course, but still. A platform using AI to decide where and what to found achieved a different result entirely. CrowdSmart, it’s called, and it uses ‘collective intelligence’ when making decisions to invest or not to. This effectively eliminates racial and gender bias. According to tech pioneer and president of CrowdSmart, Tom Kehler, the platform allocated 56% of its funding to minority and women founders.
Since technology doesn’t make decisions based on bias, like humans do (intentional or otherwise), it seems that at the moment, artificial intelligence has a leg up on society and the business world. This offers possibilities as well as judgment, of course – AI-assisted platforms could help eliminate unconscious bias by presenting investors with smart opportunities, either anonymized to hide names and faces of founders or by simply automatically backing such projects.
This could be a quick measure to help reduce bias – the other, more involved and long-term solution is to enable more underrepresented groups to reach leadership positions and to provide role models for young people in order to motivate them – of course, those are both great ideas, but it’ll take a few years for those things to really make an impact on the market – for now, AI could really be a strong opportunity for fairer treatment!