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Investigating Challenges to Diversity in AI

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The lack of diversity in the field of AI has been well-documented. As an industry, AI struggles to both recruit and retain team members from diverse backgrounds. But despite widespread awareness of AI’s diversity gap, the crisis continues. In July of 2020, PAI formalized its commitment to investigating this persistent problem with the hire of our first Diversity and Inclusion Fellow.

Amid growing calls for action, significant investments have been made into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts, but there remains a lack of clarity about which initiatives work best. While companies have devoted significant time and money to DE&I recruitment activities in recent years, limited research exists on what happens to women and minorities after they enter technical professions.

Working in partnership with DeepMind, PAI researchers launched a study last fall designed specifically to investigate high attrition rates among women and minoritized individuals in tech. Through interviews and questionnaires with individuals working on AI teams who are female-identified or who identify with a minoritized identity, as well as DE&I leaders and managers of all backgrounds, this study is gathering desperately needed information about the factors leading to greater inclusion among AI teams.

This necessary work has never been more urgent for the AI industry. Low representation of women and Black people in AI may lead to significant racial bias encoded within algorithms. And all organizations that use AI in their work are increasingly aware of the need to actively challenge bias and discrimination in the products they produce.

By gathering actionable insights, PAI plans to release future products aimed at addressing and improving the issue of attrition of diverse professionals in AI. Organizations may turn to these products as resources in striving to make a more inclusive environment for people working in AI.