Intelligent industry and narrowing the gender gap
January 4th, 2022 – Over the coming years and decades, intelligent industry, and the underlying key technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence and big data analytics – will transform labour markets around the globe. However, there is a risk that intelligent technologies and smart intelligent products could perpetuate or even amplify inequalities if they are not designed in a way that takes account of the different realities of women and men and of persistent and harmful gender biases.
Furthermore, estimations vary considerably when it comes to the net effect of automation, digitalization and robotization on the transformation of jobs – in other words, what effect these technological developments will have on jobs gained, jobs lost and jobs requiring new skill sets. Today, there is some uncertainty about the gender-differentiated effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on women’s and men’s wages and on labour force participation rates. However, on balance, research suggests that it will reinforce existing inequalities and that women will benefit less than men both in advanced and in emerging economies.
Designing bias-free intelligent industry products
The saying that ‘tools are only as good as the hands that wield them’ also applies to data and algorithms that feed machine learning and intelligent products. If companies want to avoid becoming complicit in replicating existing gender norms and stereotypes, codes that analyze and process data need to be designed with specific attention to equality and non-discrimination (or, if already available via open source or other means, adapted with attention to equality). For example, when designing an intelligent car, accurate speech recognition is paramount. However, while progress has been made in the last years, speech recognition systems are still better at responding to men’s voices than to women’s.
Written by UNIDO
Photo: The Manufacter
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