Women have long been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions. While the advent of technologies like AI and 5G brings new opportunities and exciting opportunities, they can also pose the risk of widening the gender gap.
It should come as no surprise to us to learn that jobs in MINT will grow rapidly over the next ten years. As women are underrepresented in these professions, they may miss out on the new opportunities. In Australia, women made up only 27% of workers in STEM occupations in 2019, according to the government’s STEM Equity Monitor.
Gender stereotypes about “women’s jobs” can start early and be reinforced in school and other areas of life. Normalizing the atmosphere around women in STEM careers could help young women see this as a career choice that is open to every woman, rather than one that requires special qualities and talents.
Once in the workforce, Institutional bias can drive more women and people of color to leave STEM careers. This, in turn, can reduce diversity and further increase prejudice against new technologies such as AI and machine learning (ML). AI reflects the embedded values of its society, which are determined by its programmers. Structural gender and racial inequalities therefore unconsciously flow into the assumptions and algorithms used and lead to results that reflect these prejudices.
If we don’t have enough women who enter STEM degrees and stay in STEM professions, like can we ensure that technology takes women into account as the outcome reflects the inputs? With 5G, we’re seeing it transform health, transportation, and entertainment, to name a few. However, we cannot ignore the need for accurate data on women to avoid biasing these new innovations.
There is still much work to be done to figure out how we can repackage the STEM areas to appeal to women and to promote and promote their career and life decisions transparently. It is necessary to support the full participation of women in career advancement and as an essential part in reducing unconscious technical prejudice. Initiatives have the best chance of success when fully embraced and supported by governments, educators and employers to make a difference.
Form basic laws like anti-discrimination laws that exist at both federal and state levels in Australia the framework we already have to prevent discrimination against groups of people. Although we have understood that some groups need to be protected, we still lack an instrument like a Bill of Rights or something similar to make a general statement about what we as women and people can rightly expect when we are in a modern age live society. Given that technology is fundamental to our lives, issues of rights and equality in all formal frameworks must also be technology-neutral.
And we cannot overlook the fact that things have to be viewed globally. While technology enables us to do anything over the internet from anywhere, we see that cross-border data flows and communication, security and sovereignty are still important and always will be. Harmonization, however, offers benefits in cross-border regulation to support the benefits of technology, a medium that knows no borders.
In technology, as in other parts of the economy and society, regulation works best when it is evidence-based and find the right balance. The aim is always to promote key safeguards such as the environment, public health and safety, rights and equality, while promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. It can provide guard rails and investment security that lead to new developments. Technology doesn’t have to increase prejudice and discrimination, and regulation can signal where protective measures can be targeted.
Jurisdictions have different controls, from communication to approval of vaccines, and many things have had to be adjusted over the last year. When we get out of the pandemic it will be interesting to see if everything comes back. We have the opportunity to further analyze and possibly regulate some of these findings to support the changes brought about by the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has many economic and workforce implications and a much greater burden for families in terms of care and teaching responsibilities. If we are not careful that this could bring women further back, the tendency for these things to be « women’s work » means that fewer women are in the running as the adoption of new technologies increases. At the same time, last year’s experience of many of us working from home destroyed some of the formal work structures, like the strict 9-5 in the office that worked against women and made a clear line of sight, like women time and change location very successfully if they create our own work environment.
Technologies such as 5G enable distributed working methods, which offer us the opportunity to break down the barriers to entry for women in organizations. AI can automate repetitive, rule-based tasks and transform many jobs. Of the many lessons learned over the past year, effective remote working is one with tremendous potential for improving equality in the workplace. When it comes to women’s participation in STEM careers, it is central to reducing unconscious gender bias in the technology that underpins our entire lives. Regulation could play a role in managing rights, safeguards and programs to support the goal of equal participation of women.
International Women’s Day 2021
Women in MINT
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