The artificial intelligence (AI) industry needs more women. Currently, under a quarter of AI professionals are female, and only 13.8% of AI research papers have been authored by women. Studies have shown that when women and minorities are involved in the development of AI, these systems are less biased. However, studies have also shown that many women have faced bias from this industry dominated by male leaders and see the industry as overly masculine and unwelcoming. Adding to the difficulty, few tech companies understand the value of having more gender diverse teams. According to a report from Development Dimensions International, only 18% of leadership roles at prestigious tech companies are held by women. As a result, there are few visible female role models in STEM.
Why are Women Leaving STEM?
Statistics reveal that within STEM, women are often met with unfriendly environments. Half of the women that work in STEM left their careers after twelve years, whereas only 20% who had non-STEM careers left their jobs. According to a 2013 study from Social Forces, low pay was reported as the primary reason for the departure.
Women are also more likely than men to find a career in STEM to be unfulfilling rather than a career where they feel their work makes a difference. About 67% of women in STEM are more focused on applied, impact-driven work, compared to 61% of men. Although the amounts are similar, women are less likely to see STEM as a pathway to get there, according to a BCG study.
Women are also met with more obstacles when seeking employment in STEM. They report feeling deterred by job listings that appear to be either too vague or overly specific in the skills required. When it comes to data science, few women are aware of available career opportunities with a little more than half reporting being aware these career opportunities exist, a BCG GAMMA study found. What’s more, employers tend to be over-reliant on male-dominated professional networks. The consequence is that fewer women get hired in STEM professions and those who do often find themselves to be a minority in the workplace.
How can STEM Organizations Attract More Women?
There are ways to reverse the trend. One method is to highlight female STEM role models and leaders in order to encourage other women while changing attitudes surrounding the profession. The IPSoft’s Women in AI initiative, for instance, recognizes the work of major female STEM professionals. Another way to attract women is to make them feel that their contributions are both needed and valued. For example, IBM launched the #SheCanSTEM campaign, which aims to create awareness around the need for female science and engineering leaders. Creating more educational pathways for girls and women is another way to bridge the STEM gender divide. The US Chamber of Commerce, for instance, created the #LightaSpark campaign, which offers international educational activities and workshops for women in addition to expanding awareness around women in STEM. Organizations can also create campaigns to retrain female employees to prepare them to take on new STEM-related roles.
By leveraging these types of initiatives, organizations have the power to place women at the front and center of STEM. This will help create more female role models, thus drawing more women and girls to the science and engineering fields, and ultimately opening the door to a more diverse STEM workforce.
Creating Female Leaders
What does your company do to provide your next generation of leaders with the necessary skill sets? If employees feel empowered, they perform better and eventually may take on leadership roles within their companies. Understand how to bridge the gap between business and engineering as your team prepares for growth into management roles. Watch “Lessons in Leadership: Preparing the Future Leaders of Your Engineering Workforce”, a complimentary IEEE webinar presented by Braun Keiss and Jennie Fine.
Duration: 1 Hour
Minevich, Mark. (16 March 2020). Women Are The Key To Scaling Up AI And Data Science. Forbes.
In my 4 decades of work in electronics design, the most impressive person I’ve had the opportunity to work with won the McArthur Genius Award after her project, MIT/LIGO, proved the theory of Einstien’s gravity waves by detecting the merging of black holes over a billion light-years distant. I am greatly gratified that she encouraged me to cut the noise floor by another 15 dB, making this detection possible. Like many areas of employment, engineering is still largely male, but there is no biological reason for this.
I’d like to also mention that at this time, several collisions have been detected by LIGO, some with other astrophysical observations of the distant event, and some when all 3 (LA, WA, and Italy) observatories were running and caught them, allowing for 3-dimensional triangulation on the distant event. I only knew how to quiet noisy systems, not how to advance the state of scientific research, but I feel glad that I did.