The EU’s Next Big Move: Taking Leadership to Close the Gender Gap in AI
As we stand at the crossroads of gender equity and advanced technologies, the European Union is ready for an Industry 4.0 rebranding, a rebranding that has the potential to lead the region into the future of work. How can the EU seize this massive opportunity in front of them?
How the EU leads the way in gender equity.
It’s first worth mentioning two recent bright spots in EU’s path toward gender equity: Christine Lagarde serving as the next European Central Bank president and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen assuming the role as head of the EU Commission.
In achieving their respective nominations, both Lagarde and von der Leyen have become the first women to hold these leadership positions. Together they have broken two of the EU’s highest glass ceilings.
The region has a history of standing for inclusion. In fact, the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam officially declares gender equality an institutional responsibility of the EU. And of the world’s ten most gender-equal countries, three come from the EU. Perhaps it explains why Western Europe is 61 years from closing its gender gap while the US is a staggering 208 years away.
The EU is still 61 years away from gender parity.
Despite its bright spots, the EU has work to do to close its gender equity gap. Women represent only 15.4% of general managers, 30.4% of managers, and 36.3% of MEPs in European Parliament.
As we move deeper into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the EU must also contend with a not-so-bright spot that’s affecting them and the world over: our 28-point gender gap in AI. Of the global AI talent base, only 22% are female.
If the EU wants to continue leading the way toward gender equity, then they must take action to close the gender gap in AI. Male-dominated development teams often program their biases into AI, so a lack of diverse talent in the field not only serves as an example of systemic inequity, it perpetuates the inequity already in the system.
In a world that increasingly relies on AI to determine life-changing and complex social outcomes, we need to achieve gender equity in AI now. The EU is the optimal institution to guide us there. Here’s why.
[Related: Women's Equality Day: The Numbers Matter]
How gender equity could benefit the EU’s economy.
Shifting demographics are leading the EU into a serious crisis. The good news is that the crisis is avoidable. (I’ll get to that later.)
First, let’s look at what’s happening with the population. Between 2019 and 2070, the number of EU residents is expected to grow from 513 million to 520 million. During this same time period, it’s also expected that the working-age population (people aged 15 to 64) will fall by 40 million.
The implications reveal a questionable future for the EU: Today, there are 3.3 working-age people for every one person over the age of 65; by 2070, there will be two working-age people for every one person over the age of 65. And while the EU can expect a 9.6% drop in the total supply of talent by 2070, it can also expect a 3.2 percentage point rise in labor force participation by the same year. Why? Women are partially to thank.
The female labor force participation rate is moving up and to the right. Today it stands at 67.4% and is expected to continue rising—especially as women outpace men in educational attainment. Women now represent 59% of all EU university graduates.
However, for every 1,000 female tertiary graduates in the EU, only 24 hold degrees in information, communication, or technology-related subjects.
Herein lies the EU’s avoidable crisis, or its massive opportunity. Every day, the world is growing more dependent on Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. As that dependence increases, so too is the EU’s reliance on female talent. But at current rates, the EU will face an enormous technology skills gap unless they take action now. Taking action to close the skills gap would also help close the gender equity gap and expand the economic pie for all.
Capitalizing on gender equity’s trillion Euro opportunity.
By 2050, the EU could increase their per capita GDP by 6.1 to 9.6% should they choose to invest in gender equity. That’s between double to triple the size of Apple’s entire market capitalization. Gender equity in the workforce could help create 10.5 million jobs by 2050, too.
Salient to these improvements is narrowing the gender gap in STEM fields, which, by 2050, would contribute to a per capita GDP increase of €610 to €820 billion. It would also reduce the skills gap, raise productivity rates from half of the labor force (women), and add 350,000 jobs to the economy.
Closing the gender gap in STEM—and consequently the AI field—comes with a competitive advantage for the EU as well. Companies can tap into wider and more qualified talent pools while benefiting from new, innovative applications of technology that diverse perspectives bring to the table (the diversity dividend). If the EU wants to compete with American and Chinese technology giants, these insights should motivate them to reduce their AI gender gap.
EU entities cannot afford to continue leaving behind half of their talent pool. They need women in AI roles to fill critical labor shortages in a domain already grappling with insufficient supplies. They also need women in AI roles to help compete on the global stage.
With the world’s third-largest population, the EU has the opportunity to continue its history of standing forward on matters of inclusion. Will it rise to the occasion and take a global leadership role to close the gender gap in AI? Imagine what our future would look like if they do.
Katica Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and co-founder of Denver-based Pipeline, a SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap.
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Katica Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline, an award-winning SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap. Synopsis As CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline, Katica enables businesses to realize capital and cultural improvements in the workplace. An award-winning business leader with over two decades of experience in technology, healthcare and financial services, Katica... Continue Reading
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