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Female Involvement in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Essential

Written by: Dr. Hynd Bouhia, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

In a few short decades, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gone from science fiction movies to commonplace phone apps. Also known as cognitive systems or machine learning, AI is found in nearly every aspect of the economy. That requires sophisticated programming skills and an understanding of nano-technology, as the nature and role of information are changing fast.

Consider “Alpha Go,” perhaps the most complicated game design since chess. Alpha Go was programmed to a machine, which is a match that triumphed over the human world champion. Now think of how AI may disrupt and even replace less skilled labor – truck drivers, taxicabs, pizza delivery, and postal workers. Both man and woman are unlikely to be made obsolete or redundant. They will always have more creative power. But their training and education will need to race to adapt to the demand for new skills. Legal and political frameworks will determine how – and if – the economic and social environment can develop. This demands a balance of power. AI and machine learning capacities must be harnessed to serve the goals, needs, and social equity of all humanity, not the other way around. That balance can’t happen with just one gender in charge of programming and managing AI and the future it defines. Women's involvement in AI is essential to avoid biased outcomes and emerging technologies that do not fit women’s needs and expectations.


Less than One Woman in Five AI Programmers


A University of Copenhagen study found women represent less than one in five AI programmers. This has consequences. Male coders impart their ideas, outlook, belief structures, goals, and desires into AI, so machines simulate the masculine mindset. The lack of a female at the table, or the keyboard, will distort its future function and behavior. Only if women position themselves in the coding phase and the electronic process can AI work for both genders forever.


This programming cannot simply be anchored in the past. Since 1900, robots have “read” and digested 3.5 million[1] books filled with 11 billion terms. What do they learn? Based on this legacy, AI sees women and men described quite differently. Women are described in texts and poetry and novels as “beautiful, emotional, sexy, and shrill.” Men, by contrast, are “brave, calm, rational and correct.” Negative verbs about a woman’s body are repeated five times more often for women. Female adjectives focus on passive outward appearances; those for males emphasize character, behavior, and action.


Thus, are otherwise neutral algorithms taught to be sexist, biased. Struggling to answer questions, billions of smartphones may be infected in this manner. AI may reinforce discrimination just as human systems are starting to eradicate it. Trusting a machine to recruit, hire or promote, any jobs requiring judgment and responsibility will “automatically” be given to men. The struggle continues.


Nevertheless, advanced research continues, and more discoveries and innovations are made in technologies and computers. The same University of Copenhagen, together with the University of Helsinki, demonstrated[2] that it is possible to predict female and male preferences based on how their brain responses match others. This is revolutionary in adapting media content and helping us better understand our own selves.


Scaling up Artificial Intelligence Needs more Women


The scaling up of AI and the development of new emerging technologies could be another driver behind the persistent gender gap: the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4thIR). This term captures the dynamics unfolding in the workplace and at home, unleashed by IT – robotics and remote sensing, 3D printing and artificial intelligence, Big Data, and the Internet of Things. These advances tell us which route is fastest, recognize faces from photos, answer questions asked into phones. They merge the physical, digital, and biological worlds in ways that offer both exciting promise and extraordinary peril.


Among the first jobs to be eliminated and replaced by the 4thIR are primarily clerical, administrative, and repetitive tasks and women overwhelmingly held these positions. Innovative disruption may often create more opportunities, even as it destroys others. But new and emerging jobs – depending on skills and experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), do not have a lot of women in the pipeline.


Unless women are prepared to be left behind in tomorrow’s Revolution, they must wake up and lean in today, prepared to be part of the game and become leaders of this disruptive new trend. This only emphasizes the need for professional female role models, inspiring girls who may follow their path, stand on their shoulders, and build on their examples. This need runs through all disciplines, but nowhere more than in science and technology. To be sure, 30% of today’s scientists are now female, but they still struggle against the current. In the hottest fields of Artificial Intelligence, women do not exceed 13% of the workforce, allowing male-programmed machine learning algorithms to perpetuate gender stereotypes.


Finally, it is important to prepare women[3] in getting more involved in STEM and to enable them with technology at all levels. If the future of our economies depends on more female implications, women must be able to design, build, use, shape, and consume digital tools and products. Whether for e-commerce, marketing platforms, learning apps, or artificial intelligence, advanced tech is both a front-end means of empowering the female entrepreneur, the female startups, and a back-end outcome through which she improves technology’s form, content, and fit.


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Dr. Hynd Bouhia, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Hynd Bouhia has cumulated more than 20 years of professional experience in high-level and leadership positions, covering investments, financial structuring, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development strategies. Hynd Bouhia was nominated by Forbes among the 100 most influential women in the world in 2008 and the most influential women in Business in the Arab World in 2015 and honored as a member of the Johns Hopkins Society of Scholars in 2018.


With a Ph.D. from Harvard University (GSAS 1998), an Engineering degree from Ecole Centrale Paris (1995), and a Master from Johns Hopkins SAIS (2000), Hynd Bouhia started her career at the World Bank in Washington before joining Morocco’s Prime Minister as an economic advisor. She was appointed in 2008 as the Managing Director of Casablanca Stock Exchange. After that, she structured and managed investments and venture capital funds.


As the CEO of Strategica, she advises entrepreneurs, companies, and institutions on economic intelligence, sustainable finance, and growth strategies. Dr. Hynd Bouhia is the author of the motivational book for women entitled "Africa Girl, African Woman: How agile, empowered, and tech-savvy females will transform the continent for good."

 

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