The world of machine learning and artificial intelligence raises a whole range of questions, some trivial but many profound and difficult. One thing we do know, is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the way we live and work and it is here to stay.
Only 17% of UK digital jobs are filled by women and the figure is much lower when we look at jobs focussing on artificial intelligence. A lack of diversity in workforces is likely to lead to a narrower range of products and services which reflect these biases back to us. Therefore, it is extremely important for girls to feel comfortable working in artificial intelligence to makes sure different voices contribute to the development of this technology.
Our commitment to encouraging girls to pursue these sorts of careers, is exemplified in our annual Techathon. This event brings together students and staff from across the GDST family for a pioneering day of digital innovation inspired by female tech pioneers. We need girls to believe they can be part of this rapidly growing industry and imagine a career within AI and tech and to know that these careers require a diverse skillset.
We know employers value soft skills, it is these skills, quite apart from the digital experience and expertise they develop, which allow students to build their resilience, think critically and explore their intellectual and creative curiosities.
That’s not to say that we don’t encourage girls to learn to code and to do ‘hard science’ but it is also just as important to balance these skill sets with the empathy, communication and relationship building skills that are traditionally associated with ‘humanities’ subjects. As a Theology graduate, I know I’m not a natural fit with the digital space yet I know time and time again I have need to call on these skills in my role now.
I also know that the binary distinction between humanities and science has never been more unhelpful, a theme addressed with great sensitivity, wit and pragmatism by Dr Andy Harter at the 2018 Turning Talk, ‘Innovation and technology – art or science?’.
One of the central aims of the Techathon is to dispel these false dichotomies of technology and art, of the scholarly and the practical and of the doers and dreamers. It is by breaking down these barriers, by offering our girls the chance to ‘see what they can be’ that we can ensure a more balanced, more productive and more diverse tech workforce of the future.
GDST Techathon 2019
This year’s Techathon event explored the current and future landscape of the rapidly changing AI and tech industries.
“Employers are struggling to fill 43% of STEM jobs in the UK”
“A generation ago, the half-life of a skill was about 26 years”… today, it’s four and a half years and dropping.”
Indranil Roy – Future of Work
“Up to 800 million workers globally could be displaced by robotic automation by 2030.”
McKinsey, Jobs lost, jobs gained, 2017