The Malta Independent 3 June 2020, Wednesday

Globally only 22% of AI professionals are female: NCPE conference on AI and gender equality

Giulia Magri Wednesday, 4 March 2020, 13:55 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector is becoming more and more popular, and yet globally only 22% of AI professionals are female, said NCPE Commissioner Renee Laiviera.

Laiviera was speaking on Wednesday morning during a conference regarding AI and gender equality, organised by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

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The conference highlighted on raising awareness among stakeholders and the general public on the importance of AI. It also celebrated the achievements of women, and reflected on the challenges that hinder women’s full potential from being realised, including discrimination and societal barriers. The conference also focused on how AI can perpetuate discrimination in spheres such as employment and service provision on the one hand, and on the other hand, how equality can be mainstreamed in AI.

NCPE Commissioner Laiviera highlighted that in today’s world AI is unavoidable, but that the fact that only 22% of AI professionals are female, this could lead to a digital future made by men, for men. “NCPE are working to eliminate this form of discrimination and promote equality as per its remit,” explained Laiviera.

Speaking at the conference, Minister for Justice, Equality and Governance Edward Zammit Lewis highlighted that equal representation of both genders in science and technology is crucial. “This gender balance contributes to widen diversity in the perspectives and experiences of professionals working in this sphere so that we can strengthen equality and enhance competitiveness,” explained Zammit Lewis. He said that he felt grateful to be in his position to speak about the importance of women and the rights of women, which is a discussion which needs more importance. He highlighted that in recent years more women are taking up employment, and more women are taking up decision-making positions. “We must continue to support these women and provide more equal opportunities, especially in such an important sector,” he said.

Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms Rosianne Cutajar underlined that AI has to respect fundamental rights, particularly equality and non-discrimination. Cutajar also mentioned that the government implemented various measures to strengthen women’s economic independence. “As a government we will continue to work hard for women to be able to join and stay in the work force and we wish to see these women being paid equally just as their male colleagues.”  She said that the government is also working on the gender pay gap and that everyone’s rights should be respected.

Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Services and Digital Economy, Clayton Bartolo stressed that throughout the past years, the government sought to exploit the potential of AI by bringing strong commercial activity. Bartolo added that in the new era of AI technologies, the government is willing to work with both the private and public sectors for the benefit of all. “When I see my children growing up, I want both my son and daughter to have equal opportunities, and I wish there to be more awareness for those women who might be holding back from applying for a career in AI.”

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