WiCipedia: Digital assistants need more than a gender makeoverWiCipedia: Digital assistants need more than a gender makeover
This week in our WiC roundup: Get involved for International Women's Day; how digital assistants would differ if they were created by women; what keeps women in tech; and more.
March 6, 2020
This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Get involved for International Women's Day; how digital assistants would differ if they were created by women; what keeps women in tech; and more.
We've talked before about how seemingly every digital assistant (DA) is female, and why this perpetuates an unnecessary gender divide rooted in stereotypes about women's roles. So how would this change if future DAs were designed by women? Refinery29 interviewed four women in tech to find out their opinions on the matter, and found that things would be much, much different if it were up to these women. Jen Chan of Pinterest said she thought the DA was fairly futile, and what women really need is a real-life robot to help with things like carrying groceries and filling out forms – a "helper on wheels" if you will. While this idea seems endlessly helpful, it also seems a bit more complicated than simply giving directions and reminders from your iPhone. Yet Donna Lamar of Twitter had a much simpler, more attainable request: "If digital assistants were designed by women, I wouldn't have to repeat myself." (See WiCipedia: Fembots Create Gender Divide & Snap Tackles Culture Issues.) Figure 1: This guy seems way more helpful than Siri (Source: Pixabay)
The lack of representation for women in the development of AI is more than an oversight or gender bias; it could mean life or death. An article in Forbes explains that with more and more AI designed specifically for men, women are at risk when these technologies become part of everyday life, despite making up 50% of the population. Take healthcare apps for example: "Today, online apps based on data mainly collected from men may suggest to a female user that her symptoms of pain in the left arm and back may be due to depression ... In contrast, a male user of the app is more likely to be asked to immediately contact his doctor based on a diagnosis of a possible heart attack. Yet, it is clear that women can also be victims of heart attacks." It's time for regulations to be put in place for AI R&D, before it's too late. (See WiCipedia: Fembots Create Gender Divide & Snap Tackles Culture Issues.)
A new study from tech staffing firm Mason Frank International confirms that flexible work environments are the most desirable workplace benefit for women. HR Technologist summarized the findings of the 2,500-person study, and found that while women value this perk more, ironically a higher portion of male workers are offered this benefit. The study cites stigma associated with working from home, yet with women more likely to accept job offers that are structured as flexible, it's time companies got on board the home-worker train, and quickly. Additionally, it's leaving women in the dark ages: "Not offering these benefits to all staff could be handicapping gender representation even at the initial intake stage." (See WiCipedia: Ivanka Trump's CES Keynote & Male Bosses Promote Men More.)
This Sunday, March 8, marks International Women's Day, part of the grander focus of March, which is Women's History Month. Both events are celebrated worldwide and aim to bring awareness to how far we have come and how much is still left to accomplish. The theme of the day this year, which comes from the United Nations, is Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights. An official gathering will take place in New York all day at the UN headquarters, which will also be live broadcast on the site, though no matter where you're located there are ways to acknowledge the day's importance. The UN put together a list of 12 things everyone can do to propel the movement ahead, from calling out sexism to supporting female-run businesses. Take a look at the whole list here. (See WiCipedia: Careers After Kids, Int'l Women's Day & Minority Founders.)
— Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading
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