The ACLU and other groups urged Amazon to halt selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement departments. Lending tools charge higher interest rates to Hispanics and African Americans. Job hunting tools favor men. Negative emotions are more likely to be assigned to black men's faces than white men. Computer vision systems for self-driving cars have a harder time spotting pedestrians with darker skin tones.
I've lost track of the number of times I've heard somebody say recently that Timnit Gebru is saving the world. Her co-lead of AI ethics at Google, Margaret Mitchell, said that about her a few days ago when Gebru led some events at Google around race. Her work with Joy Buolamwini that found race and gender bias in facial recognition is in part why lawmakers in Congress want to prohibit federal government use of the technology. That work also played a major role in Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft agreeing to halt or end facial recognition sales to police. Earlier in the week, organizers of the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) conference, one of the biggest AI research conferences in the world, took the unusual step of calling her CVPR tutorial about how bias in AI goes far beyond data "required viewing for us all."
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is of crucial importance in the workplace. Interdisciplinary thinking focused on turning dialogue into action is more crucial than ever. But it takes awareness, sensitivity, and collaboration to improve structural and social impediments and achieve an enriching and humane working environment. "Research has shown that diverse groups are more effective at problem solving than homogeneous groups, and policies that promote diversity and inclusion will enhance our ability to draw from the broadest possible pool of talent, solve our toughest challenges, maximize employee engagement and innovation, and lead by example by setting a high standard for providing access to opportunity to all segments of our society."1 Making DEI a strategic imperative can deliver genuine business value, help your organization attract top talent, and drive innovative results.2
The uphill climb for minorities in the technology industry has been well-documented. The same goes for the challenges and underrepresentation that women in technology face. For women of color, the environment can be doubly challenging. The headlines suggest that my black female peers in technology and I will not only encounter gender stereotyping, but also the cultural biases that too often pervade work environments that are historically, primarily white. Women represent 26% of computing professionals and only 12% of professional engineers, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
Despite loudly touted efforts to hire more black, Latino and female workers, especially in technical and leadership positions, diversity numbers at the largest tech companies are barely budging. In 2014, 2 percent of Googlers were black and 3 percent were Hispanic, numbers that haven't changed since. The picture is similar at Facebook and Twitter . Microsoft is slightly more racially diverse (though not when it comes to gender) and Apple even more so, though still not reflective of the U.S. population. Amazon is more racially diverse still, although it counts its large, lower-wage warehouse workforce in its totals.