Twitch Debate: Does Science Need More Women to Progress?

Women account for only 33% of scientists worldwide. The percentage is even lower in the fields of engineering, mathematics, information and communication technologies where only 3% of female students embark on these paths. In the field of Artificial Intelligence, only 22% of professionals are women, according to a UNESCO report. Pushed towards literary studies, or diverted from computer programming, girls censor themselves in science, show economists. Even the most gifted among them for these matters!

See you Thursday March 4 at 5:30 p.m. on the Twitch channel of Science and the Future

The result is a brain deprivation which has an impact on the quality of science but also on the way it is done and questions the world. To talk about it, visit the Twitch channel of Science and the Future, Thursday March 4, 2021 at 5:30 p.m., with Flora Vincent, specialist in marine microbiology, live from the Weizmann Institute, in Israel. When she is not assessing the biodiversity of the orderly on board the Tara expedition ship, for example, Flora Vincent is interested in a crucial subject: the place and future of women in science. She is the co-founder of the WAX ​​sciences association, which fights against gender stereotypes. She is also the co-author of “Artificial Intelligence, not without them”, published by Belin editions. Flora Vincent shows that an AI lacking women, or people from the minority is less effective. Thus, the Google translator propagates sexist stereotypes: “he” is a doctor, “she” is a nurse? And career counseling apps always associate empathy and literary skills with women, charisma and scientific skills with men.

Algorithms 88% designed by men

Why ? Because the algorithms with which humans have equipped these machines were 88% designed … by men! Which are not necessarily macho, but convey biases, received ideas, sexual stereotypes very significant in society. In other areas, the shortage of women has long discouraged certain questions or approaches.

The Italian biologist Rita Montalci (died in 2012) thus protested against the academic refusal to tackle questions related to the specificities of women’s bodies. In particular, it imposed research on abortion and male contraception. In ethology, it took the arrival of an evolutionist like Sarah Blaffer Hrdy to take a different look at the sexuality of female langur, which turned out to be as fickle as their male counterparts. Enough to shatter a Victorian conception of sexualities and relations between the sexes among these monkeys. These are just a few examples, while a new trend, that of “gender innovations” shows that taking sex and gender issues into account can lead to better science. And that the diversity of the teams plays a role in it.

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