The AI sector has a serious problem: lack of gender inclusion and equity for girls. While AI-powered technologies hold enormous potential to improve the lives of children, as UNICEF’s draft Policy Guidance on AI for Children illustrates, this can only be achieved if action is taken to address current imbalances in the AI ecosystem, including gender bias and discrimination. Evidence indicates that if girls are not involved in the design of AI systems in a meaningful way, systemic gender biases will continue to be perpetuated. For example, it is estimated that 85% of AI projects will deliver erroneous outcomes due to bias by 2022. The need to promote equality and greater societal representation in the AI sector is urgently needed, as further studies show that only 12% of leading machine learning experts are women and globally, only 22% of AI professionals are female. This reality highlights the need for developing girls digital and AI skills to minimize the missed opportunities they will face in the future job market and digital economy, without a level playing field.
Special attention needs to be given to ensure that girls are included in AI literacy programs, given their underrepresentation in digital literacy programs generally. The UNICEF – ITU – EQUALS report Towards an equal future: Reimagining girls’ education through STEM (2020), confirms that girl’s career expectations reflect gender stereotyping, and estimates that only 18% of women who are students in tertiary institutions throughout the world pursue STEM fields compared to 35% of men. A gender -responsive and integrative approach in STEM education is needed to unlock opportunities for girls to participate in the design and implementation of digital solutions. In particular, AI-enabled solutions – feminist AI – should be developed by and for girls and young women, so that their needs are met in an empowering and safe way, and gender bias is minimized. To support this necessary sea change towards gender-transformative AI, the webinar will focus on the barriers, opportunities and promising practices for increasing girl’s digital and AI skills. To ground the discussion, the panel will feature girls in the AI field to share their perspectives and successes.