Gender Equality, The Pulse 2nd Issue

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Issue 2, Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dear Reader,

March was Women’s History Month in the United States, highlighting the incredible achievements of women despite the odds being stacked against them. At the AI for Good Foundation, we believe that providing every human being with equal access to opportunity is a fundamental right, and something we strive for in each of our programs. In fact, as you get to know our team, you’ll notice that we embody this philosophy in how we lead our personal lives too.

Whatever arguments may exist on one side or the other, any biological differences between men and women are irrelevant to the achievement of common societal goals and the proper functioning of today’s economic systems–for any male employee, entrepreneur, leader, there is a similarly qualified, skilled, and passionate woman.

Our society is built upon institutions that enforce a certain set of incentives. As human beings, we optimize our resource allocations according to these incentives, because this will provide us with the highest expected return (happiness, money, health, etc.). Current institutions perpetuate gender- (and other traits-) biased outcomes. In turn (or jointly), cultural norms develop regarding the expected role that certain actors will play in society, allowing the family and community nucleus to unwittingly reinforce these biases.

Unfortunately, despite heightened attention to this topic in the past decades, we are not necessarily making consistent progress towards fairer society. Last year, the World Economic Forum found that the gender gap had widened for the first time since they began their measurements. An increasingly hostile and adversarial political climate in the US and beyond has caused noticeable polarization and hindered structural attempts to address these problems.
Within corporate boundaries, Chief Diversity Officers, and “Diversity Hiring” efforts provide temporary improvement in metrics for company regulatory filings, but may actually worsen workforce harmony and respect in the long term–these are band-aids, not solutions. 
The biggest problem is a lack of understanding of the vectors of influence. An unbalanced labor force, for example, is a symptom, not a disease. We must invest more in understanding how we got to this stage, and addressing underlying issues at a societal level. Data and Artificial Intelligence can help, and the AI for Good Foundation is involved in projects that contribute to our knowledge, and help support decision making at all levels.
Find out more about our programs, join our mailing list, or become a member today to be the change!

Monthly Interview: Charlotte Stanton

This month we interviewed AI for Good advisor, director of the Silicon Valley office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as well as a fellow in Carnegie’s Technology and International Affairs Program, Charlotte Stanton, on how Artificial Intelligence can play a role in developing fairer societies.

What is your background and specialization?
My academic training is interdisciplinary. I have a masters in international relations from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and an interdisciplinary PhD from Stanford. My current work looks at the international implications of advanced technologies with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI).

What do you think are the biggest challenges that lie ahead in achieving gender equality?
The challenge depends on the geographic setting. In developed countries, qualified women are still too often passed over for leadership roles in both the public and private sectors. In many developing countries, women are still prevented from getting a basic education.

How do you think a technology and AI, can facilitate a solution for gender equality?
Even though AI can exacerbate human bias in certain contexts, it may have the potential to reduce bias in other contexts — if applied appropriately. Consider the example of a human HR representative reviewing applications as part of a hiring process. Human bias could lead the HR representative to favor male candidates over female candidates with the same qualifications. In theory, an AI-system could be trained to compare candidates based on their qualifications alone.

What do you think are the organizations and individuals that will help us achieve this goal?
One of the organizations I’m most excited about is AI4All, started by Fei-Fei Li and Melinda Gates. Its mission is to increase participation by under-represented groups, including women, in the development of AI systems. They are already working with some of the leading schools which are training the next generation of AI experts, including Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Princeton, and UC Berkeley. AINow is another excellent non-profit, conducting research geared towards identifying and resolving instances of bias in AI systems.

What are some notable projects or specific steps right now that are important in eliminating gender inequality and are being achieved today?
One specific step that any organization, company, and individual can do is to scrutinize their decisions to determine whether gender bias may be playing a role.

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