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AI Poses Disproportionate Risks to Women

Originally published by Darrell M. West for Brookings

Women are worried about artificial intelligence (AI) and fear that it will harm their kids and their own personal well-being. According to a recent survey undertaken by Axios/Morning Consult, 53% of females say they won’t let their children use AI products, while 26% of men felt that way. In addition, only four percent of women indicated they would allow their offspring to use AI chatbots for any purpose, compared to 31% of men who expressed that view. These results echo those found by the Pew Research Center that women are more worried than men about AI being used to diagnose and treat medical illnesses.

In this article, I argue there are three reasons for this large AI gender gap: fears about economic security, personal security, and megachange, in particular. Business leaders, tech innovators, and policymakers need to pay close attention to women’s concerns given the distinctiveness of their fears about this and other emerging technologies. They need to improve women’s representation in science and technology fields, enact laws that protect women from gender-specific digital crimes, and make sure firms have equitable workforce policies in place to help with tech disruptions.

Fears about economic security

Much has been written about the potential impact of AI on future job losses and, while the estimates vary widely, a number of researchers worry there could be significant job ramifications and that much of the negative impact will fall disproportionately on women. For example, research from the McKinsey Global Institute finds that the bulk of AI-induced job losses will affect women without college degrees because those women disproportionately populate the entry-level jobs likely to be most affected by automation. Occupations such as administrative assistants, retail clerks, and finance personnel are already seeing job cuts, and this trend could accelerate as AI is deployed more widely and ubiquitously in many sectors.

Economic fears have long been a part of the gender gap in candidate preferences. It is well established that women on average earn less than men, suffer higher unemployment, and worry more about their economic security. It therefore is not surprising that these general concerns are popping up with regard to AI, and other emerging technologies, especially given the possible job losses and/or job transformations that could take place based on those innovations. In general, women are wary of AI’s economic ramifications and fear that it will make their current plight even harder than it already is.

Worries over personal security

Women also worry about the impact of AI and emerging technologies on personal security. “Fake nude” and “revenge porn” problems already have emerged, and they typically prey mainly on women. There have been cases where prominent women, such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have had their heads placed on a naked body in order to shame them. And it is not just women in leadership positions who have suffered from this odious behavior. Several schools have reported cases of teenage girls being subjected to the same treatment, which is horrible for anyone but particularly upsetting to young girls at a crucial stage in their personal development.

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