The absence of women in the emerging artificial intelligence industry has already had an adverse impact on how well this technology supports women and responds to their needs, UN women says in a report called The gender snapshot 2023. “ Challenging social biases, increasing women’s education and expanding women’s participation in STEM are all vital to transforming information and technology so that it works for gender equality.“
The report takes as an example of bias in the AI industry that facial and voice recognition systems are predominantly designed by men and are more adept at recognizing male voices and lighter-skinned male faces.
“Darker-skinned females are the most misclassified group”, the report says.
The report warns that, if current trends continue, more than 340 million women and girls—an estimated 8% of the world’s female population—will live in extreme poverty by 2030, and close to one in four will experience moderate or severe food insecurity.
“The gender gap in power and leadership positions remains entrenched, and, at the current rate of progress, the next generation of women will still spend on average 2.3 more hours per day on unpaid care and domestic work than men.”
“Science, technology and innovation are radically transforming how people live, socialize, pay their bills, order food, study and work. These advances have increased human connectivity but also raise concerns about individual security, rights and freedoms.”
“Women, in particular, face heightened risks of technology-facilitated violence.”
“Further, while some countries are at the forefront of machine learning, big data and artificial intelligence, others grapple with insufficient digital infrastructure and broadband connectivity. In 2022, 2.7 billion people still lacked Internet access.”
“An ever-expanding technology and information divide will push groups that are already disadvantaged even further behind, including women and girls in rural poor households and from marginalized communities.”
The report says that the latest global data confirm ongoing challenges preventing women from equally engaging in dynamic and innovative economic sectors.
“Women are two times less likely than men to know a computer programming language, based on data from 62 countries and areas with data from 2017 or later. In 2022, inventors listed on international patent applications were 5 times less likely to be female than male. In 2020, women held only one in three research positions worldwide and only one in five science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs.”
With a special focus this year on older women, the report finds that older women face higher rates of poverty and violence than older men.
“In 28 of the 116 countries with data, fewer than half of older women have a pension; in 12 countries fewer than 10% had access to a pension.”
The report underscores the urgent need for concrete efforts to accelerate progress towards gender equality by 2030, stating that an additional USD 360 billion per year is needed to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment across key global goals.
The report also includes calls for an integrated and holistic approach, greater collaboration among stakeholders, sustained funding, and policy actions to address gender disparities and empower women and girls worldwide, concluding that failure to prioritize gender equality now could jeopardize the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Gender equality is not just a goal within the 2030 Agenda,” says Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs of UN DESA. “It is the very foundation of a fair society, and a goal upon which all other goals must stand. By breaking down the barriers that have hindered the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of society, we unleash the untapped potential that can drive progress and prosperity for all.”
Highlighted in the report:
- Under a worst-case climate scenario, food insecurity is projected to affect as many as 236 million more women and girls, compared to 131 million more men and boys, due to climate change.
- No country is within reach of eradicating intimate partner violence, and only 27 countries have comprehensive systems to track and make budgetary allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
- The number of women and girls in conflict-affected contexts has risen significantly, with catastrophic consequences. In 2022, the number of women and girls living in such contexts reached 614 million, 50% higher than the number in 2017.
- Globally, at current rates of progress, an estimated 110 million girls and young women will be out of school in 2030.
- The labour and earnings gap remains persistently high. For each dollar men earn in labour income globally, women earn only 51 cents. Only 61.4% of prime working age women are in the labour force, compared to 90% of prime working age men.