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Gender Diversity in AI

Aug 21, 2019 2:23:00 PM / by Maddie Norwood

As a woman working in artificial intelligence who enjoys playing video games and dislikes many traditionally “girly” things, I have experienced firsthand the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world. Women make up a minuscule percentage of the artificial intelligence industry and of the computer science industry as a whole. Artificial intelligence software is meant to be used by everyone, but it is often inherently biased towards men because it is primarily created by men.

Gender Diversity in AI

Ivy.ai, unlike your standard tech company, is composed mostly of women and strongly values diversity. While Facebook’s AI research team is only 15 percent female, and Google’s team is only 10 percent female, nearly 60 percent of Ivy.ai’s team is female. Women make significant contributions at all levels of our company. We manage employees, build new bots, curate data, write documentation, code software, and maintain existing bots.

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Without a significant female presence, artificial intelligence may further perpetuate a lack of gender diversity in the workplace. For instance, Amazon attempted to create an artificially intelligent resume scanning service that could sort applicants based on their resumes. The scanner compared existing employees’ resumes to applicants’ resumes. In theory, this was a good idea, but the scanner was inadvertently replicating Amazon’s gender gap.

Since a majority of current employees were male and had not attended all-female programs, the scanner sorted candidates with resumes containing the words “women’s” or “women’s college” lower than other candidates. This gender bias was so integral to the scanner’s operation that Amazon was not able to eliminate it and ultimately discarded the product altogether. This is just one of many examples of this phenomenon.

Simply put, smarter hiring decisions lead to smarter AI. On the other hand, a primarily male workforce will create chatbots that are more likely to accurately recognize and assist males.

By employing a diverse workforce, Ivy.ai not only ensures that our chatbots work well for every user, but we also establish a fun, welcoming company culture. Instead of being marginalized, the contributions of women are celebrated. Our employees fill out Taylor Swift song brackets and give presentations on Miley Cyrus.

Our Director of Operations, Katharine Coomer, initially did not intend to work in the AI industry, despite the fact that she was fascinated by the subject and had majored in neuroscience. She said that “the prospect of working in tech as a woman was intimidating to me, so I had no intention of pursuing that career path.”

However, our CEO, Mark McNasby, offered her a job at Ivy.ai, and she quickly realized that Ivy.ai was different than other tech companies. “Mark never once assumed that something would be too complicated or difficult for me to learn,” she said.

“Even now, anytime I express an interest in a certain process or topic, his response is that he would be happy to explain it or let me explore it—he’s never dismissive, patronizing or hesitant to let me try something new.”

Katharine said that she is “proud to work at a software company where our team is predominantly female, quite young, and from all different backgrounds. And, as we continue to build out the team, we’ve carried on that same vision and philosophy.”

Our inclusive hiring practices and diverse workforce helps us create more intelligent, more accurate chatbots. Ivy.ai is the future of the artificial intelligence industry.

Maddie Norwood

Written by Maddie Norwood

Maddie is an AI Implementation Specialist, responsible for building bots for Ivy.ai.

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