Empower women in emerging tech fields - Hindustan Times
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Empower women in emerging tech fields

Jan 13, 2024 11:25 PM IST

India, with its considerable expertise in all new technologies, can take many steps to build equal access to them for women

Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain and data analytics are rewriting the work landscape. But this also raises the question of whether these can help bridge the gender gap or whether they will make things worse.

Many experts have hailed AI as a creator of opportunities to override tasks which have an inbuilt bias, such as hiring for the workplace or performance evaluation(Shutterstock) PREMIUM
Many experts have hailed AI as a creator of opportunities to override tasks which have an inbuilt bias, such as hiring for the workplace or performance evaluation(Shutterstock)

Many experts have hailed AI as a creator of opportunities to override tasks which have an inbuilt bias, such as hiring for the workplace or performance evaluation. Blockchain is seen to have the potential to increase opportunities for women in finance, traditionally a male-dominated sector, and data analytics can highlight hidden discriminatory practices. So, these are technologies which many feel can bring about positive change and herald a more inclusive, and gender-just environment.

Parameswaran Iyer, executive director at the World Bank says, “Much like past transformative technologies such as the internet and GPS, AI holds the promise to enhance not just ease of living for women but also the ease of doing business and ease of access. During my tenure as CEO of Niti Aayog, I witnessed how the Women Entrepreneurship Platform envisaged leveraging AI to provide women with personalised suggestions on the most relevant government schemes and increasing uptake and access in the public sphere. Empowering women with AI proficiency can unlock new avenues, transforming seemingly challenging projects into doable tasks.”

But many glitches remain before all this is realised. Women are indeed acquiring AI skills at a fairly rapid pace. Data from LinkedIn, however, suggests that these skills are being acquired in fields like health care and education and not enough in areas where men lead, such as deep learning and neural networks.

A 2022 study by Accenture shows that only 22% of global blockchain startups have female founders. This statistic underscores the urgent need for initiatives that empower women to integrate themselves more into blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies.

Rama Vedashree, former CEO, Data Security Council of India says, “AI is now a mainstream horizontal technology pervading both business and consumer solutions in every domain. This offers women with domain expertise to join teams developing AI solutions. You do not have to be a computer or data scientist to access AI career opportunities. There is also increasing attention to diversity in teams developing AI solutions to reflect the demography of the audience. The industry is now focused on attracting women talent into their AI teams. We now need an AI talent pool in the fields of financial services, health care and retail.”

The chasm between genders in tech can be bridged. The first step involves getting rid of hidden biases by actively identifying them in data and algorithms and neutralising them. “Algorithms may not have genders but the humans who design them do. Let us code for equality,” says Dhawal Gupta, group business director, Chase India. This is a fairly exhaustive task and requires the establishment of diverse teams, rigorous testing frameworks, and an unwavering commitment to ethical AI development. If done effectively and consistently, these can help guard against gender-based inequities in tech.

India, with its considerable expertise in all new technologies, can take many steps to build equal access to them for women. One could be coding programmes tailored for women and mentorship programmes for female tech leaders, which empower them to compete on more equal terms with their male counterparts.

The government and private sector should also identify inspirational role models among women who have excelled in new technologies and engage them in mentorship roles. Though women have a long way to go to catch up with men in new technology, efforts made today could level the playing field. These could bridge rather than amplify existing divides.

The views expressed are personal

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