UNESCO Global Conference: “The Private Sector Takes Action: Gender Equality and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence” – 7 March 2020

To celebrate International Women’s Day, UNESCO invites you to its high-level conference: “The Private Sector Takes Action: Gender Equality and the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence”. The event will take place on Saturday 7 March 2020, from 9:30 to 4:30pm.

The conference comes as a follow-up to UNESCO and EQUALS’ publication in March 2019 of I’d Blush if I Could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education. This report features recommendations on actions to overcome global gender gaps in digital skills, with a special examination of the impact of gender prejudice coded into some of the most prevalent artificial intelligence applications.

The recommendations concerning AI’s gender biases are urgent in light of the explosive growth of digital voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Almost all voice assistants are given female names and voices, and express a ‘personality’ that is engineered to be uniformly subservient. The gendered submissiveness and servility expressed by so many of these ‘female’ digital assistants illustrate the gender biases coded into AI products. As I’d Blush if I Could explains, these biases are rooted in stark gender imbalances in digital skills education and in the gender imbalances of the technical teams developing frontier technologies.

The outcome of this conference will feed into UNESCO’s efforts to develop a global normative instrument on the ethics of artificial intelligence, in line with its mandate unanimously decided upon by Member States at the 40th session of its General Conference in November 2019.

The event will be followed by the inaugural meeting of the Exponent Roundtable, a Google initiative to operate under the patronage of UNESCO (TBC), which consists of a small group of people inside and outside of Google that are working with the private sector to advance gender equality efforts globally.

Objectives of the conference

Bringing technology sector leaders, representatives of Member States, civil society and academia together to share their insights and experiences on opportunities, challenges and best practices to:

  • overcome the built-in gender biases found in AI devices, data sets and algorithms
  • improve the global representation of women in technical roles and in boardrooms in the technology sector
  • create robust and gender-inclusive AI principles, guidelines and codes of ethics within the industry