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Deloitte: Women make up just 26 percent of AI workforce in the US

by Ben Wodecki
Article ImageSurvey finds 57 percent of women left their job due to discrimination

Women make up just 26 percent of the AI workforce in the US, with a gender divide apparent, suggests a study by Deloitte.

The professional services firm interviewed 200 AI/ML experts for the Women in AI whitepaper, in which 68 percent of female respondents said sexual or gender-based stereotypes served as an obstacle in their professional careers.

Worryingly, 57 percent said they left their employer due to discrimination.

“Women should not need permission to perform their work in AI,” Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Dr. Poppy Crum said.

Diversity to improve development

More than 63 percent of respondents in the survey agreed that AI and machine learning models would always produce biased results as long as AI continued to be a male-dominated field.

The paper argues that more diverse teams would be more successful at solving issues in AI, and would better challenge assumptions, weed out unconscious biases, and identify blind spots within a system.

“To be truly diverse you need to bring people into AI that think differently,” Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of AI and ML at the World Economic Forum, said.

Almost three-quarters of respondents to Deloitte’s survey strongly agreed that companies that promote and elevate diverse groups within their organization will benefit as a result.

Further, 67 percent said having more women in managerial, leadership, and role model positions directly benefits an organization’s employees.

AWS's head of ML business development, startups, and venture capital, Allie Miller, told Deloitte that having more gender diversity within AI was a matter of "common sense."

“When looking at my career, most of my successes could be traced back to a mentor. The benefits of mentor-mentee relationships cannot be over-indexed,” she said.

The vast majority of respondents (71 percent) said that adding more women to AI and ML will bring unique perspectives to high tech that are needed in the industry, with 66 percent adding that AI and ML products and services would benefit from having more diversity in designer and developer positions.

Women are more likely to catch things men might miss, and vice versa, as well as bringing a different mental toolkit, the whitepaper said.

“Women’s perspectives can enable AI teams to develop more holistically valuable products that can bring a positive impact to a wider audience of users,” Beena Ammanath, Deloitte AI Institute’s executive director, noted.

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