We Need to Move Towards Artificial Intelligence That Does Not Reproduce Gender Biases

  • Gender biases persist in society, a phenomenon that is exacerbated by the use of new technological tools and processes such as artificial intelligence.

“It has been proven by various indices that more egalitarian companies are more profitable. Today’s society is less tolerant of purple washing and, therefore, there is a great opportunity for technology to be programmed to cut the dynamics of a society full of biases” is one of the forceful conclusions that were said yesterday afternoon by María Garzón, Founding Partner of iMADES Communication, the agency that organised the III edition of LIDEResAThis is an initiative launched in 2022 with the aim of valuing the talent of women and their leadership in all its aspects, as well as making visible those situations that hinder the achievement of real and effective gender equality in society.

Experts in artificial intelligence and representatives of renowned companies met yesterday afternoon at the Hotel Índigo Gran Vía in Madrid to discuss “Gender and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.” Not surprisingly, we live in a technological environment that today is discriminatory to women, as we find technological products, such as artificial intelligence, that ignore diversity and inclusion. The problem is that this technology includes gender biases at its roots that affect the development of women’s human rights, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.

One of the reasons for this unequal situation, according to data provided by Ma Isabel García, Director of the Women’s Institute, during the opening of the event, is that only 22% of artificial intelligence professionals in Spain are women and they are not in decision-making positions related to this technology. In fact, only 25% of women are represented in data positions and, according to a UNESCO report, women and girls are 4 times less likely to know how to program computers. All of this acts as a barrier to the development of more egalitarian and responsible technology.

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Worrying lack of ethics in artificial intelligence

The importance of applying ethics in the development of these data-intensive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, was discussed in depth in a first round table debate in which there was a strong answer to the question “why do such gender biases exist and how are they introduced?” According to María Vázquez Terrés, Director of Business Solutions at Microsoft Spain, “artificial intelligence is based on historical information, and digitalisation is a mirror of who we are as a society.” As explained, technology and algorithms, and thus artificial intelligence, operate in the real world, learning from it and interacting with it. Therefore, these algorithms that feed artificial intelligence are influenced by the gender biases that are present in the culture from which they learn in their training process.

Beatriz Medina, Managing Director of Freeda Spain and moderator of the round table, stressed that to ensure the development of algorithms that work towards equality “it is necessary to include female profiles in data teams and developer teams because we are underrepresented.” Thus, the challenge of achieving diversity in teams is a priority, according to Andrés Visús Jarne, Director of Operations and Strategy at PredictLand, who said that “clients want artificial intelligence to be ethical, and for this to happen, unbiased information is key.”

The need for governments to commit to the regulation of artificial intelligence in order to achieve a fair and auditable technology was also discussed. Although this is necessary, they did not want to overlook the fact that this is of no use if the ethical awareness of all the actors involved, including the consumers of technological products, is not achieved beforehand. Sara Degli-Esposti, Research Scientist in Ethics and Artificial Intelligence at the Institute of Philosophy (IFS) CSIC, pointed out that “you can have a law and codes with wonderful principles, but what is essential is that people believe in those principles.”

A crucial and cost-effective technology for business

Despite all this, there is a commitment that is uniting some companies towards a new trend called “responsible artificial intelligence,” an approach that prioritises the responsible impact of technology over profits and that is clear about the key role of this technology both in the business environment and in the development of a fairer and more egalitarian society.

María Garzón Molina, Founding Partner of iMADES Communication, gave way at the end of the day to a debate in which Noelia Morón Tabernero, Software Development Manager at Amazon, intervened and assured that “artificial intelligence in the business world is going to turn everything upside down. In the fairly near future, an approach centred on artificial intelligence will be applied to solve any operational aspect of a company.” He therefore encouraged all companies, regardless of their size, to embrace a technological change that is necessary for their very survival.

In this sense, the technology company aims to bring its work in all areas related to artificial intelligence to companies that are smaller or very distant from the technology and to do so in a responsible and sustainable way, given the limitations that these smaller companies may have to implement this technology.

In addition, Estelle Raso, CEO of KPI Risk Ethics & Compliance, shared her first-person experience with regard to the implementation and use of a technology that she considers strategic for the business environment. She explained that in order to achieve a balance in the development of a fairer and more egalitarian technology, it is essential to focus on diversification and not to be afraid of risk. “AI brings risks and opportunities, but when there is a risk there is an opportunity for diversification, and in my team the risk is managed through the diversity of professional profiles that complement each other in their work,” he said.

In short, gender biases persist in society, a phenomenon that is exacerbated by the use of new technological tools and processes such as artificial intelligence. Reversing this situation and making the technological environment egalitarian, inclusive and representative is an urgent challenge that must be addressed not only to avoid discrimination against women, but also to prevent this technology from setting society back in terms of human rights.

About iMADES Communication: we are an international communication, public affairs, crisis communication and reputation agency, specialised in communication strategies in processes of high media exposure. In addition, we work in an expert line of communication support for women leaders, we provide training in inclusive communication and in other areas that promote equality in the company. We develop our services both in Europe and Latin America, where we have a team specialised in strategic communication in the region.

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