For the past years, UNESCO has become an influential actor in international efforts towards the ethical development of artificial intelligence. With Gender Equality as one of its two Global Priorities, UNESCO is committed to ensuring that women and girls have access to and fully participate in technological developments, including frontier technologies, that are free of gender bias.
Why is it important?
At a moment when every sector of society is becoming a technology sector and digital technologies are reshaping everyday life, there are outstanding gender gaps in the digital technologies in general and especially in AI. Today, women and girls are 25% less likely than men to know how to leverage digital technology for basic purposes, 4 times less likely to know how to programme computers and 13 times less likely to file for an ICT patent.
The biases that people carry in their everyday lives can be reflected and even amplified through the development and use of AI systems. For example, the ‘gendering’ of digital assistants, exposed by UNESCO in the publication I'd Blush If I Could, has the potential of spreading and reinforcing understandings of women as subservient and compliant. The automation of jobs also risks having a negative impact on women’s economic empowerment and labour market opportunities.
20%of employees in technical roles in major ML companies are women
12%of artificial intelligence researchers globally are women
6%of professional software developers are women
To solve this problem, UNESCO raises awareness to the importance of adopting a gendered approach to all aspects of AI. This approach aligns itself with UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, the first global standard-setting instrument aimed at providing a basis to make AI systems work for the good of humanity, individuals, societies, and the environment and ecosystems, as well as to prevent harm.
We need technology to promote respect for human dignity and gender equality;
We need technology to protect and promote diversity and inclusiveness; and
We need technology to promote social justice, by respecting fairness.
EQUALS Digital Skills Hub
Discover the EQUALS Digital Skills Hub, your one-stop shop for information on projects, resources and good practices to advance digital skills education for women and girls, and bridge gender digital skills divides.
I'd Blush If I Could
UNESCO’s publication, I’d blush if I could, shares strategies to close gender divides in digital skills through education. The title of the publication borrows its name from the response that used to be given by Siri, a female-gendered voice assistant used by hundreds of millions of people, when a human user would tell ‘her’, “Hey Siri, you’re a bi***.”