The gender gap in STEM fields is a widely discussed topic, and now we have new information that takes the discussion one step further – the gender gap in Artificial Intelligence (AI). As demand for AI skills escalates across industries, there is risk that it will perpetuate and even widen the gender gaps in technology sector. Some analysts contend that artificial intelligence itself could magnify inequality across a range of contexts, as algorithms often reflect the implicit biases of their creators.
Using data from LinkedIn, the World Economic Forum studied the gender gap in the talent pool having AI skills (published as part of the 2018 World Gender Gap Index report). Following are the main findings of the research:
- There is a significant gender gap among AI professionals – only 22% of AI professionals globally are female. This accounts for a gender gap of 72% yet to close.
- The three countries with the largest AI talent pools are the United States, India and Germany. But Germany also has the largest AI gender gap (82%). India has a 72% AI gender gap. Italy, Singapore and South Africa have the smallest AI gender gaps, where on average 28% of the AI talent pool is female in contrast to 72% male.
- Over the past four years, women and men have acquired AI skills at the same rate, yet the absolute number of women who indicate they have AI skills on LinkedIn is much lower.
- Across industries,the largest gender gaps can be found in Manufacturing, Energy and Mining, and Software and IT Services. While industry gender gaps appear to contribute to AI talent pool gender gaps more broadly, the gaps within the AI talent pool are more significant, often as much as three times larger, and women are consistently outnumbered by their male counterparts irrespective of industry.
- In terms of roles and positions,women with AI skills are more likely than men to be employed as data analysts, as well as in research, information management and teaching positions. Male AI professionals are better represented in roles such as software engineer, head of engineering, head of IT as well as business owner and chief executive officer- positions that are generally more lucrative and of a more senior level.
What does this mean for workplaces? The World Economic Forum warns that “such persistent structural gender gap among AI professionals reveals the depth of possible future gender gaps. It is of critical importance to reverse these trajectories at this early stage of professional expansion for innovative sectors and ensure that Artificial Intelligence is a field that is inclusive by design. Diversity of views among innovators is vital to ensuring the economic opportunities created by AI do not increase existing gender inequalities, and that new AI systems serve the needs of society at large”.
Effective re-skilling interventions and tangible job transition pathways will be key to narrowing these emerging gender gaps and can pave the way to reversing such trends.
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