Bridging the AI gender gap
Despite ongoing conversations on the need for greater gender diversity in artificial intelligence (AI) industry, women are still vastly underrepresented. The World Economic Forum recently found that only 26% of those working in data and AI globally are female, with even fewer holding senior roles.
It’s clear that if the AI industry is going to deliver on its promise to revolutionise all of our lives, but there’s a vital need to ensure more women are involved in its development. As with most things, the first step to overcoming the gender gap in AI is to attract more women into the industry. That’s why we spoke to members of Amelia’s Women in AI forum to discuss their experiences and suggest ways we can bridge the gender divide.
Throughout her career working in AI, Ekaterina Stoianova, Cognitive Project Lead at Amelia, an Ipsoft company, found that strong mentors were key to her success. “I believe that women need a strong professional mentor network to support them and help overcome gender stereotypes”.
Indeed, research has found that 48% of women in tech felt that an absence of female mentors was one of their biggest barriers. Ekaterina explains that an unbiased mentor can be a great sounding board and help to bring new perspectives. “Sometimes the actions they proposed were not obvious but, in hindsight, proved to be valuable.”
Play to your strengths
Ozge Tarim, Senior Business Account Manager at Global DWS, is also concerned that declining rates of women entering STEM courses in university are causing some women to feel that they don’t have a good enough technical understanding of AI.
“The biggest challenges I faced were thinking that a lack of technical qualifications meant that I didn’t deserve to be involved in the discussion.” One of the ways she overcame this was by realising that technical knowledge was just “one aspect and not enough for success in itself. You need a whole spectrum of strengths. Diversity drives innovation.”
Begin with the board
“The discrepancies between the population and its representation in the C-suite are enormous and create core problems in these sectors” notes Priscilla Lotman, Founder & Director at AVA2 Digital Asset Management. Addressing gender imbalance on boards sends a powerful message to other women in the organisation, demonstrating that it is calling time on the ‘glass ceiling’. It also enhances an organisation’s standing as an inclusive employer and demonstrates strong, positive company values.
Bust AI myths
One example is that you need to have a deep understanding of complex mathematics. “This is not true,” Andrée comments. “You just need to know what you can do with the technology”. While we need to keep up our technical understanding, other characteristics, such as our ability to think creatively and critically, are also crucial.
Another myth Andrée hopes to clear up is that you must have a large pool of data scientists to execute a successful AI implementation. “In the last 5 years, we’ve seen an exponential increase of smaller AI-as-a-service companies with no need for large teams to get you started.” Women should take advantage of the increasing democratisation of AI tools to gain experience and start understanding its potential. Priscilla also highlighted how accessible this can be even in small companies, as “many tools actually have a free or low-cost version so now even one-person businesses can leverage the power of AI.”
Time for change
Make no mistake, the gender gap in AI will not be closed overnight. Media attention and governmental initiatives can go a long way to help, but industry engagement will be key in helping to change outdated perceptions. Programmes like Women in AI can help give women the community support they need to thrive within the AI landscape, but we can all do more. It’s only when we can address this imbalance, that we can create an AI industry that is fair, creative, and innovative.
Karolina Malota,Head of Amelia’s Women in AI community
Katherine joined techUK in May 2018 and currently leads the Data Analytics, AI and Digital ID programme.
Prior to techUK, Katherine worked as a Policy Advisor at the Government Digital Service (GDS) supporting the digital transformation of UK Government.
Whilst working at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Katherine led AMRC’s policy work on patient data, consent and opt-out.
Katherine has a BSc degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham.
- [email protected]
- 020 7331 2019
Zoe is a Programme Assistant, supporting techUK's work across Policy, Technology and Innovation.
The team makes the tech case to government and policymakers in Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels and across the UK on the most pressing issues affecting this sector and supports the Technology and Innovation team in the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.
Before joining techUK, Zoe worked as a Business Development and Membership Coordinator at London First and prior to that Zoe worked in Partnerships at a number of Forex and CFD brokerage firms including Think Markets, ETX Capital and Central Markets.
Zoe has a degree (BA Hons) from the University of Westminster and in her spare time, Zoe enjoys travelling, painting, keeping fit and socialising with friends.