As technology evolves, it absorbs cultural norms and biases from its creators and the internet, which seep into algorithms and designs reproducing discriminatory stereotypes. It is said that AI is as unbiased as the engineers creating it or the company behind it. There have been cases over time which prove that programs carry gender biases:
o Amazon’s 2018 AI recruiting system: It was designed to streamline the recruiting process by reading resumes and selecting the best-qualified candidates. The AI had been programmed to pick up on phrases like “women’s chess club captain” and marked the resumes down on the scoring system. After this malpractice was unveiled, none of the engineers who developed the algorithm wanted to be identified as having worked on it. The “AI Now Report” of 2018 highlights that there is a critical link between the development of AI systems which project gender biases and the lack of women in teams that design them.
o AI virtual personal assistants [eg. Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Bixby (Samsung)] reinforce the role of women as secondary and submissive to men: They operate on the command of their user and are unable to reject requests. Not only do they answer provocatively and unsimilarly to male assistants but through their voices and programmed flirtatiousness they reproduce the discriminatory stereotype of female secretaries raising expectations for how real women ought to behave. A 2019 report by UNESCO (‘I’d blush if I could’) estimated that many will be having more conversations with their virtual assistants rather than their spouses. The objectification of women is hence passed along digital platforms.
Is there a correlation between the male-dominated AI industry and the discriminatory products it produces? UN news mentions that women make-up only 12% of AI researchers, 6% of software developers and are 13 times less likely to file ICT patents. As UNESCO formally calls, the information above reflects the “stark gender-imbalances in skills, education and the technology sector ” and necessitates bridging the digital gender gap in all countries.