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  • Writer's pictureLena Hill

Five Impacts of AI for Women in Work

(Article Originally Published for Medium May 18, 2023)

Female-like AI Robot with Computer Internal mechanism exposed
The Dismantling of Women in Business with AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of the modern business landscape. It offers numerous advantages and opportunities. Personally, work that typically took me days is now taking mere hours. Which is equal parts exciting, because I’m able to get back to passion projects and my family more quickly and also horrifying because I’m not ‘supposed’ to be able to handle such a workload as a solo business owner. But as I marvel at and embrace this technological revolution, it's important that we critically examine its potential implications. As a womxn entrepreneur, my first thoughts always go to how this evolution could potentially exacerbate gender inequalities. My theory is that AI could have a disproportionately negative impact on women, potentially widening existing gender disparities. Below are five Impacts of AI for women in work and some ideas for navigating the challenges ahead.

Gender Bias in Data and Algorithms

AI systems heavily rely on data for training and decision-making. However, these datasets are not immune to bias. If historical data reflects existing gender disparities, AI algorithms might perpetuate and even amplify such biases. For instance, recruitment AI tools trained on biased historical data could inadvertently favor male candidates, hindering gender diversity efforts in the workplace.

Automated Decision-Making and Stereotypes

As AI systems take over decision-making processes, there is a risk of reinforcing societal stereotypes and biases. Currently, most AI voice systems like Siri and Alexa are given female voices and personality types that are recognized as subservient which reinforces deep rooted stereotypes about women in business. According to the University of Cambridge’s 2023 paper “Cinema has helped ‘entrench’ gender inequity in AI’, found that ‘that just 8% of all depictions of AI professionals from a century of film are women’. If algorithms prioritize qualities that align with traditional male leadership traits, women might face additional hurdles in accessing opportunities for career advancement. How are companies responsible for these AI systems going to ensure that they are building products that are capable of recognizing and mitigating biases rather than reinforcing them?

Lack of Representation in AI Development

The gender gap in AI development exacerbates the potential challenges women may face. In the 2019 report, I’d blush if I could, published by UNESCO, it found that only 12% of AI research and 6% of professional software developers are women. The company, Gaumard Scientific created an AI mock patient to help teaching hospitals. The AI mock patient, Emory, is currently in a male gendered body. Gaurmard Scientific has reported that a female gendered body is in development which begs the question why they didn’t first develop their AI patient in a female body. According to Zippia, Gaurmard Scientific’s workforce is 29% female and 71% male. With fewer women involved in creating and shaping AI technologies, their unique perspectives and experiences may be overlooked. This underrepresentation hinders the development of inclusive AI systems that cater to the diverse needs of women.

Impact on Female-Dominated Industries

Certain industries, such as healthcare and education, have a higher proportion of female workers. As AI technologies disrupt these sectors, it is essential to consider the potential consequences. According to the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, ‘8 out of 10 women in the US workforce are in occupations highly exposed to generative AI automation’. For example, if AI replaces or undervalues traditionally female-dominated roles, it may further marginalize women in the workforce and perpetuate economic inequalities. Which will, in turn, have a tremendous negative effect on economic growth.

Ethical Implications and Transparency

The ethical implications of AI extend beyond gender disparities. However, it is important to highlight that gender-related issues should be at the forefront of the ethical discussion surrounding AI. Transparency in AI decision-making processes and algorithms is crucial for addressing potential biases and holding AI systems accountable.

Navigating the Challenges Ahead

While the potential negative impacts of AI on women in business are concerning, there are steps we can take to mitigate these challenges. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Diverse AI Development Teams: Encouraging diversity and inclusion in AI development teams can ensure that different perspectives are considered, leading to more inclusive and fair AI systems.

  2. Ethical Frameworks: Implementing ethical frameworks that prioritize fairness, transparency, and accountability can help prevent biased AI systems and provide recourse for addressing any potential issues that arise.

  3. Data Collection and Evaluation: Collecting diverse and representative data, evaluating datasets for biases, and actively working to eliminate such biases can help reduce gender disparities perpetuated by AI systems.

  4. Education and Training: Promoting education and training programs that equip women with the necessary skills to thrive in an AI-driven economy can help bridge the gender gap in AI-related professions and empower women in the digital era.

  5. Regulation and Oversight: Governments and organizations should collaborate to establish regulatory frameworks that ensure AI systems are fair, transparent, and accountable, minimizing potential harm to women in business.

By actively addressing these five impacts of AI for women in work and taking proactive measures, we can strive for an AI-powered future that promotes gender equality and inclusivity in the business world.

While the rise of artificial intelligence brings promising advancements for businesses, we must be mindful of its potential impact on women. By recognizing and proactively addressing the challenges associated with AI, we can work towards a future where women in business can thrive and benefit from the transformative power of technology. If you’d like to join with me to ensure AI becomes a tool for intersectional equity, I would love to hear from you. Let us create a new work space that resides in empowerment rather than disparity.


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