UNESCO and the EQUALS Skills Coalition have launched a report into gender divides in digital skills, and how education can overcome the divide. We’ll start by quoting the introduction from the report, which is entitled I’d blush if I could:
The title of this publication borrows its name from the response given by Siri, a female-gendered voice assistant used by hundreds of millions of people, when a human user would tell 'her', "Hey Siri, you're a bitch."Although the AI software that powers Siri has, as of April 2019, been updated to reply to the insult more flatly ("I don't know how to respond to that"), the assistant's submissiveness in the face of gender abuse remains unchanged since the technology's wide release in 2011.
The report covers a wide range of issues related to gender inequality in digital technologies (particularly consumer-level technologies such as voice assistants) and skills. It identifies ways in which the skills gap could start to be closed, at a time when that disparity is moving in the other direction. The takeaway statistics include women being 25% as likely as men to have at least a basic knowledge of computer programming; and - perhaps most shockingly - machine learning research being undertaken at a ratio of almost 9:1.
Perhaps reassuringly, and typically for UNESCO, the report doesn’t just cover the Western world. It explores what we might consider to be more rudimentary technologies too; an example being how the mobile payment service m-Pesa has liberated women in Kenya due to its passing of financial control directly to the end user.