Lebanese lawmaker fights ‘degrading’ citizenship law against women

Uphill struggle:

Nine months after being voted into the 128-seat Lebanese parliament as one of six female lawmakers, Paula Yacoubian is urging fellow legislators to help change discriminatory laws that are an “injustice” against women.

Yacoubian, 42, won her seat as a civil society candidate in May’s election, and prides herself on being the first woman in Lebanon’s parliament not aligned with any political party in the country’s sectarian political system.

The former journalist turned lawmaker’s biggest battle is gaining nationality rights for thousands of stateless children born to Lebanese women.

In Lebanon, women married to foreigners cannot pass their Lebanese nationality on to their husbands or children.

“There is so much injustice. You have thousands of kids in this country that have no rights – they are Lebanese, they grew up here, they speak only Arabic,” Yacoubian told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from her Beirut office.

“It is not only about women – it is about suffering families … They don’t have a piece of paper that says that you have a nationality – it is degrading.”

Stateless children cannot access public healthcare, have difficulty getting access to education, and when they are old enough, they cannot work without a permit, according to the law.

Additionally, women in some communities can’t inherit or own property regardless of who they marry.Lebanon is far behind other countries in the region, like Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, that have provided equal citizenship rights to men and women, activists who have worked on the issue said.

MORE PROTECTION FOR WOMEN

Beyond reform, Yacoubian said it is critical for additional laws to be passed in order to protect young women’s health and against forced marriage.

There is no minimum age for marriage in Lebanon. Religious communities can allow girls younger than 15 to marry, according to Human Rights Watch.

Yacoubian supports KAFA, a local campaign group calling on Lebanon to pass a law to make 18 the minimum age for marriage – with no exceptions.

“If there [are] any exceptions to be made it will not have the same impact. The message should be very clear – no marriage under 18,” she said.

Globally, 12 million girls marry before age 18 every year, according to Girls Not Brides, a coalition working to end child marriage.

KAFA said other Arab countries are a step ahead of Lebanon in setting 18 as the minimum marriage age, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

Protecting women against violence also needs “a lot of work” in a country that passed a long-awaited law in 2014 against domestic violence, Yacoubian said.

But rights groups were outraged that authorities watered it down so much it fell short of criminalising marital rape.

A 2017 national study by ABAAD, a Lebanese women’s rights group, found that one in four women have been raped in Lebanon. Less than a quarter of those sexually assaulted reported it, the survey said.

TIME FOR DISRUPTION

With women in Lebanon gaining only two seats in parliament in May’s election for a total of six, Yacoubian said there needs to be a 33 percent quota to give women fair representation.

“It is their rights first to be represented – to have equal chances. And because this is the real representation of Lebanon … more than half of the country is women. They should be represented in a way that reflects how the society works.”

“I think in the long run it can be disruptive for this patriarchal system that humiliates women.”

Having women in lawmaking postitions will help boost women’s rights in a country where men don’t view women as their equals – something she has experienced herself in the workplace, Yacoubian said.

“I have MPs who treat me as if I am either a flower or something fragile … We don’t have a culture that understands that women are equal to men,” she said.

Many months after May’s election, Lebanese leaders are still at odds over how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups as mandated by a political system that shares government positions among Christian and Muslim sects.

Yacoubian called it a “mafia system” that is running the country based off of religion, money and power – dominated by men.

She said she will “keep fighting” for women’s rights and is hopeful legal changes will be made to protect women.

“I hope it will be soon because you will have less suffering, less problems. I am sure that one day this country will see a new horizon, a new light.”

AI and the Automation of Jobs Disproportionately Affect Women, World Economic Forum Warns

Interesting analysis of gender and AI:

Women are disproportionately affected by the automation of jobs and development of artificial intelligence, which could widen the gender gap if more women are not encouraged to enter the fields of science, technology and engineering, the World Economic Forum warned on Monday.

Despite statistics showing that the economic opportunity gap between men and women narrowed slightly in 2018, the report from the World Economic Forum finds there are proportionally fewer women than men joining the workforce, largely due to the growth of automation and artificial intelligence.

According to the findings, the automation of certain jobs has impacted many roles traditionally held by women. Women also continue to be underrepresented in industries that utilize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. This affects their presence in the booming field of AI. Currently, women make up 22% of AI professionals, a gender gap three times larger than other industries.

“This year’s analysis also warns about the possible emergence of new gender gaps in advanced technologies, such as the risks associated with emerging gender gaps in Artificial Intelligence-related skills,” the report’s authors write. “In an era when human skills are increasingly important and complementary to technology, the world cannot afford to deprive itself of women’s talent in sectors in which talent is already scarce.”

The World Economic Forum report ranked the the United States 51st worldwide for gender equality — above average, but below many other developed countries, as well as less-developed nations like Nicaragua, Rwanda and the Philippines. Women in the U.S. had better economic opportunities than those in Austria, Italy, South Korea and Japan, according to the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. fell two spots from its ranking 2017. While the gender gap improved slightly in economic opportunity and participation, the gap between men and women regarding access to education and political empowerment reversed, in part due to a decline in gender equality in top government positions.

The World Economic Forum, which is known for its annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, measured the gender gap around the world across four factors – political empowerment, economic opportunity, educational attainment and health and survival – to find that the gap has closed 68%, a slight improvement from 2017, which marked the first year since 2006 that the gender gap widened.

As the gender gap stands now, it will take about 108 years to close completely and 202 years to achieve total parity in the workplace.

Source: AI and the Automation of Jobs Disproportionately Affect Women, World Economic Forum Warns

Why are we so afraid of gender-based analysis?

Interesting and relevant study that gets behind the rhetoric around Trudeau’s statement on gender based analysis and infrastructure projects like pipelines:

Justin Trudeau set off a social media firestorm during the G20 summit in Argentina in November when he said, “Even big infrastructure projects, you know, might now say, ‘Well, what does a gender lens have to do with building this new highway or this new pipeline or something?’ Well, you know, there are gender impacts when you bring construction workers into a rural area. There are social impacts because they’re mostly male construction workers. How are you adjusting and adapting to those?” A Toronto Sun editorial headline appeared soon after: “Trudeau Unacceptably Smears Construction Workers.” Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer called him “a threat to rural Canada” in a tweet. Many Canadians have taken to Facebook and Twitter expressing their anger that Trudeau suggested that they or their husbands, sons or brothers who work in resource industries might be causing harm in rural communities.

We recently completed a report for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, based on a review of over 400 scholarly and community research articles and interviews with seven key informants, about strengthening impact assessments of large resource developments to better understand and consider the experiences of Indigenous women. Our research found that there are both positive and negative — but mostly negative — social, economic, cultural and health impacts for Indigenous (and non-Indigenous) women when a resource development project is situated near their community. These gendered impacts are regularly overlooked in current environmental impact assessment processes.

Gendered impacts of resource development

New employment and business opportunities are some of the most important benefits of resource development for rural and remote communities. Indigenous women who are able to access these opportunities report positive impacts on their self-confidence and financial independence. However, not all women are able to access good-quality, high-paying jobs. Because of persistent gendered work patterns, women typically bear the bulk of care work in families and communities. When child care services are unavailable, unaffordable or inaccessible, women face barriers to accessing the training needed for high-paying jobs, such as those in the trades. The shift work and fly-in, fly-out nature of many resource development industries also creates child care challenges for families. While impact benefit agreements and other arrangements sometimes provide preferential hiring opportunities for Indigenous women, these jobs are often temporary, low-skilled and low-paying, and in traditionally feminine sectors like cooking and housekeeping.

Increases in violence and harassment are common impacts of resource development identified by Indigenous women. Racialized and sexualized violence and harassment are frequently reported by Indigenous women who are employed at resource extraction job sites. Women in communities near resource extraction sites sometimes experience rapid increases in gender-based and sexual violence. In particular, the stress that “two-week-on, two-week-off” industry work schedules place on families sometimes contributes to gender-based violence in workers’ homes. More disposable income can lead to increases in substance use and abuse, which research studies have linked to increased crime rates and increased rates of gendered and sexualized violence for women and girls.

Increases in sex work often accompany resource development industries and the mass influx of primarily male workers to resource towns and work camps. Some women enter sex work as an alternative source of income for themselves and their families, while others are victims of human trafficking.

Nearby resource development projects further strain what are in many cases very limited housing resources in Indigenous communities and in northern municipalities with high numbers of Indigenous people. Indigenous women who experience intergenerational trauma, addictions or mental health crises and who have low levels of education are especially vulnerable to becoming hard-to-house or homeless in these contexts. Others who have jobs with lower incomes than those in resource development sectors can find it hard or impossible to afford housing in their home communities.

The social impacts are both positive and negative, but our research shows that for Indigenous women, and other marginalized members of communities, the negative impacts are in many cases likely to outweigh the positive ones.

Trudeau is correct to call for gender-based analysis. People’s Party Leader Maxime Berniersuggests that considering gender in resource development is “cultural Marxism nonsense,” and others have worried it will be “bad for business,” but gender-based analysis is an analytical tool used around the world by governments, businesses, researchers and nonprofit organizations. The federal government committed to using gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to guide its decision-making beginning in 1995, although the fall 2015 Auditor General’s report made it clear that the quality of GBA+ in many federal departments has historically been less than ideal.

Using a GBA+ lens involves asking deliberate questions about not only gender but also diversity impacts and outcomes, focusing on who receives most of the benefits and who bears more of the costs in policy planning and decision-making, including decisions about resource development. In this case, it also involves making sure that environmental impact assessment processes seek out and listen to the voices of Indigenous women and other community members whose experiences have historically been overlooked.

Culturally relevant gender-based analysis recognizes the diversity among members of communities. It is an important analytical tool that can help to identify gendered impacts and aid in the development of plans to mitigate the worse impacts on women, to ensure that all members of our communities (Indigenous and non-Indigenous, women and men) can share in the benefits of resource extraction and to make it less likely that more marginalized members of communities, including women and girls and people with disabilities, will face more negative impacts than positive ones.

This article is based on a report co-written with Patricia Nash (independent researcher, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL) and Deborah Stienstra (Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work, University of Guelph).

Source: Why are we so afraid of gender-based analysis?

Labour market outcomes for college and university graduates, class of 2010 to 2014

Good study on the differences in economic outcomes by gender, coming out just before my presentation at the ACS organized conference, STATISTICS CANADA: 100 YEARS AND COUNTING, looking at visible minorities and outcomes.

Same gender gaps but when one compares  visible minority women, Canadian-born, with not visible minority women, a number of visible minority groups have comparable economic outcomes whereas visible minority men, Canadian-born, do relatively worse compared to not visible minority men.:

Even with the same university degree or college diploma, female graduates earn, on average, less than their male counterparts two years after graduation. Results from a new study, based on administrative data, are focused for the first time on the annual employment income of college and university graduates over time in all provinces and territories.

From 2010 up to 2014, over 900,000 students under 35 years of age graduated from a Canadian public postsecondary institution and entered the labour market. Most of these graduates obtained an undergraduate degree (53%) or a college-level diploma (14%). The median employment income two years after graduation was $43,600 for those with an undergraduate degree and $39,100 for college-level diploma holders.

For all graduating cohorts from 2010 to 2014, men with college-level diplomas or undergraduate degrees had higher median employment income than women with the same credentials. The median employment income was $43,900 for men who graduated with a college-level diploma and $36,200 for women who obtained the same qualification. For those who obtained an undergraduate degree, the median employment income was $47,200 for men and $41,300 for women. Gender differences in employment income are influenced by various factors, such as choice of field of study, occupation, and hours of work. The current study cannot identify whether or not the occupation is related to the field of study of the graduate.

The employment income of graduates varies by educational qualification

Among graduates who obtained their postsecondary credential from 2010 to 2014, the year of graduation had little impact on their employment income two years after graduation as each cohort of graduates entered a similar labour market environment. However, differences in income were observed by type of qualification for all graduating classes.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two years after graduation, by educational qualification, 2010 to 2014 cohorts
Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two years after graduation, by educational qualification, 2010 to 2014 cohorts

Chart 1: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two years after graduation, by educational qualification, 2010 to 2014 cohorts

For the most recent graduate cohort (students who obtained a credential in 2014), the median employment income two years after graduation ranged from $32,600 for graduates with a college-level certificate to $71,600 for those with a professional degree (which includes graduates from law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry or pharmacy). The results varied for other qualifications. For example, it was $38,100 for a college-level diploma, $42,700 for those with an undergraduate degree, $57,600 for a master’s degree, and $60,800 for doctoral degree graduates.

Median employment income for men ranged from $35,300 (graduates with a college level-certificate) to $72,800 (graduates with a professional degree). The median employment income for women ranged from $30,400 (college-level certificates) to $70,800 (professional degrees).

Studies in architecture, engineering and related technologies and in health and related fields lead to relatively high median employment income

Graduates from 2014 in architecture, engineering and related technologies, and in health and related fields, had the highest median employment income two years after graduation for college-level diplomas ($47,600 and $44,900, respectively) and undergraduate degrees ($60,000 and $58,200, respectively). Women and men had slightly different results.

For 2014 college-level diploma graduates, the median employment income two years after graduation in health and related fields was $44,000 for women and $50,500 for men. This was followed by architecture, engineering, and related technologies, with women earning $41,100, while men earned $48,900.

Women who obtained an undergraduate degree in health and related fields had the highest median employment income two years after graduation at $60,800, followed by architecture, engineering, and related technologies where the median employment income was $55,900.

Men with an undergraduate degree in architecture, engineering and related technologies had the highest median employment income ($61,000), followed by graduates in mathematics, computer and information sciences ($56,100). Health and related fields programs yielded the seventh highest median employment income for men at $44,100.

Among the 2014 cohort of graduates, women represented 16% of the college-level diplomas and 20% of the undergraduate degrees in the architecture, engineering and related technologies field. In contrast, they accounted for 84% of college-level diplomas and 80% of undergraduate degrees in health and related fields.

For graduates from most provinces, architecture, engineering and related technologies, and health and related fields were also among the top-earning fields of study for both college-level diploma and undergraduate degree graduates.

Employment income increases over time for postsecondary graduates

The 2011 graduating class saw their median employment income increase between 9% (for college-level diploma graduates) and 26% (for doctoral degree graduates) when measured first at two years, and then five years after graduation.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 2: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 3  Chart 3: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 3: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 4  Chart 4: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 4: Median employment income of postsecondary graduates two and five years after graduation, by educational qualification, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Students who obtained a professional degree in 2011 continued to have the highest median employment income five years after graduation, with an increase of 14% between year two and five. Those with a master’s degree had a slightly higher median employment income two years after graduation than those who earned a doctoral degree, some of whom may have pursued postdoctoral studies. However, five years after graduation, the doctoral degree graduates were earning more.

For graduates who earned a college-level diploma in 2011, the median employment income for males increased by almost 18% between two and five years after graduation. Female graduates, in turn, had a more modest rate of growth of 4% over the same period.

Among male students who earned an undergraduate degree in 2011, overall median employment income increased by almost 26% from years two to five following their graduation. The rate of growth in median employment income for female graduates over the same time period was lower, at 15%.

Median employment income for graduates in health and related fields grows slowly

Although median employment incomes in health and related fields had the lowest growth rate among those with an undergraduate degree from years two to five after graduation (at approximately 4%), it was still among the top fields of study in terms of employment income. Graduates from humanities programs had the second highest growth rate of median employment income (28% between year two and five after graduation), however, their income ranked as one of the lowest among graduates from the major fields of study who obtained an undergraduate degree.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 5: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 6  Chart 6: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 6: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 7  Chart 7: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 7: Median employment income of undergraduate degree graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 8  Chart 8: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 8: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, both sexes, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 9  Chart 9: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 9: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, males, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 10  Chart 10: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort
Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

Chart 10: Median employment income of college-level diploma graduates two and five years after graduation, by field of study, females, 2011 longitudinal cohort

As was the case for students with an undergraduate degree, those with a college-level diploma in health and related fields had the lowest rate of growth (less than 1%) from two to five years after graduation, but started with relatively high median employment income. College-level diploma graduates in visual and performing arts, and communications technologies, had larger income growth between two and five years after graduation at 17%, but started with the lowest median employment income.

Trump Is Reshaping The Judiciary. A Breakdown By Race, Gender And Qualification

Good analysis with significant longer-term impact. Sharp contrast with Canadian judicial appointments under the current government where by my count, 56 percent are women, 9 percent visible minority and 3 percent Indigenous peoples:

The Trump administration has already written the opening chapters of what could be its most enduring legacy: the makeup of the federal courts.

In partnership with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Trump White House has secured lifetime appointments for 29 appeals court judges and 53 district court judges. That’s not to mention two Supreme Court nominees.

“He came into office with a mandate to nominate judges in the mold of Justice [Antonin] Scalia and Justice [Clarence] Thomas,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel at the Judicial Crisis Network, which advocates for conservative judges. “That was a key reason he won the presidency.”

Supporters will celebrate that record this week at the annual convention of the Federalist Society, whose primary mission is to place conservatives on the courts.

The effort is so important to the Republican legal community and the party’s voting base that lawmakers have been holding hearings for nominees while the Senate was in recess, aiming to confirm those candidates in the lame-duck session scheduled before the end of the year.

Critics call this an abuse of the system and point out that all the Trump picks for the appeals courts and the Supreme Court tend to have something in common: most of them are white men.

“Of his 43 appellate nominations, none are African-American,” said Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“None are Latino. Only nine are women. Our nation’s great diversity should be reflected in its government institutions, especially the federal judiciary, which serves as the guardian of our rights and liberties.”

Also notable, said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is that the Republican-controlled Senate limited President Obama to two circuit court judge confirmations and 22 district court nominations during his final two years in office.

Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, never got a hearing.

NPR aggregated these data from public sources and inquiries to judicial nominees. This presentation reflects the state of nominations formally sent to the Senate as of Nov. 14, 2018. View the full spreadsheet here.

Source: Trump Is Reshaping The Judiciary. A Breakdown By Race, Gender And Qualification

Accenture: Is artificial intelligence sexist?

An interesting look at the bias question of AI and some AI and related techniques to reduce bias. While written in terms of gender, the approach (use analytics, bias hunting algorithms, fairness software tools) could be deployed more widely:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing amazing changes to the workplace, and it’s raising a perplexing question: Are those robots sexist?

While it may sound strange that AI could be gender-biased, there’s evidence that it’s happening when organizations aren’t taking the right steps.

In the age of #MeToo and the drive to achieve gender parity in the workplace, it’s critical to understand how and why this occurs and to continue to take steps to address the imbalance. At Accenture, a global professional services company, we have set a goal to have a gender-balanced work force by 2025. There is no shortage of examples that demonstrate how a diverse mindset leads to better results, from reports of crash test dummies that are modelled only on male bodies, to extensive academic studies on the performance improvements at firms with higher female representation. We know that diversity makes our business stronger and more innovative – and it is quite simply the right thing to do.

To make sure that AI is working to support this goal, it’s imperative to know how thought leaders, programmers and developers can use AI to fix the problem.

The issue matters because Canadian workplaces still suffer from gender inequality. Analysis by the Canadian Press earlier this year found that none of Canada’s TSX 60 companies listed a woman as its chief executive officer, and two-thirds did not include even one female among their top earners in their latest fiscal year.

Add to this the reports about behaviour in the workplace that undermines the principles of diversity and inclusion. Of course, AI isn’t the cause, but it can perpetuate the problem unless we focus on solutions. AI can contribute to biased behaviour because the knowledge that goes into its algorithm-based technology came from humans. AI “learns” to make decisions and solve complex problems, but the roots of its knowledge come from whatever we teach it.

There are lots of examples showing that what we put into AI can lead to bias:

  • A team of researchers at the University of Washington studied the top 100 Google image search results for 45 professions. Women were generally under-represented in the searches, as compared with representation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The images of women were also frequently more risqué than how a female worker would actually show up for some jobs, such as construction. Finally, at the time, 27 per cent of American CEOs were women, but only 11 per cent of the Google image results for “CEO” were women (not including Barbie).
  • In a study by Microsoft’s Ece Kamar and Stanford University’s Himabindu Lakkaraju, the researchers acknowledged that the Google images system relies on training data, which could lead to blind spots. For instance, an AI algorithm could see photos of black dogs and white and brown cats – but when shown a photo of a white dog, it may mistake it for a cat.
  • An AI research scientist named Margaret Mitchell trained computers to have human-like reactions to sequences of images. A machine saw a house burning to bits. It described the view as “an amazing view” and “spectacular” – seeing only the contrast and bright colours, not the destruction. This came after the computer was shown a sequence of solely positive images, reflecting a limited viewpoint.
  • Late last year, media reported on Google Translate converting the names of occupations from Turkish, a gender-neutral language, to English. The translator-bots decided, among other things, that a doctor must be a “he,” while any nurse had to be “she.”

These examples come from biased training data, where one or more groups may be under-represented or not represented at all. It’s a problem that can exacerbate gender bias when AI is used for hiring and human resources. Statistical biases can also exist in areas including forecasting, reporting and selection.

The bias can come from inadequate labelling of the populations within the data for example, there were too few white dogs represented in the database of the machine looking at dogs and cats. Or it can come from machines working with variables that are highly co-related but rely too much on certain types of data; for example, weeding out job candidates because their address is from a women’s dorm on campus, without realizing it was keeping out female applicants.

Gender bias can also come from poor human judgment in what information goes into AI and its algorithms. For example, a job search algorithm may be told by its programmers to concentrate on graduates from certain programs in particular geographic locations, which happen to have few women enrolled.

Ironically, one of the best ways to fix AI gender bias involves deploying AI.

The first step is to use analytics to identify gender bias in AI. A Boston-based firm called Palatine Analytics ran an AI-based study looking at performance reviews at five companies. At first the study found that men and women were equally likely to meet their work goals. A deeper, AI-based analysis found that when men were reviewing other men, they gave them higher scores than they gave to women – which was leading to women getting promoted less frequently than men. Traditional analytics looked only at the scores, while the AI-based research helped analyze who was giving out the marks.

A second method to weed out gender bias is to develop algorithms that can hunt it down. Scientists at Boston University have been working with Microsoft on a concept called word embeddings – sets of data that serve as a kind of computer dictionary used by AI programs. They’ve combed through hundreds of billions of words from public data, keeping legitimate correlations (man is to king as woman is to queen) and altering ones that are biased (man is to computer programmer as woman is to homemaker), to create an unbiased public data set.

The third step is to design software that can root out bias in AI decision-making. Accenture has created an AI Fairness Tool, which looks for patterns in data that feed into its machines, and then tests and retests the algorithms to root out bias. This includes the subtle forms that humans might not see too easily to ensure people are being fairly tested. For example, one startup called Knockri uses video analytics and AI to screen job candidates; another, Textio, has a database of some 240 million job posts, to which it applies AI to root out biased terms.

AI and gender bias may seem like a problem, but it comes with its own solution. It’s our future – developing and deploying the technology properly can take us from #MeToo to a better hashtag: #GettingToEqual.

Ottawa appointing more female judges, but bench still short of gender parity – The Globe and Mail

Good overview with the latest numbers. My tracking of women, visible minorities and Indigenous judicial appointments since 2016 is above:

The federal Liberal government has been naming women to the bench at an unprecedented rate this year, with nearly three women chosen for each man, government figures show. Of 37 judges named to federally appointed courts in 2018, 27 are women.

The boost in the appointment rate of women has been helped along by historic levels of female applicants, who make up 45 per cent of the 1,169 applicants since the Liberals established a new appointment process in October, 2016, according to the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, which collects data on the process. That’s up from 30 per cent during the 10 years the Conservatives were in power. (Federally appointed courts include the superior courts of provinces, the Federal Court, Tax Court and the Supreme Court of Canada.)

The rapid rate of female appointments still leaves the bench well short of gender parity. The 866 full-time positions are now 39.6 per cent women, up from 36.6 per cent when the Liberals took office in November, 2015, according to figures supplied at the request of The Globe and Mail.

The government has put into effect its stated policy of having a 50-50 gender split in Cabinet. But it has never publicly stated a target for the appointment of women to the judiciary.

If it has set numerical targets for achieving a 50-50 split, it is not saying.

“All judicial appointments are made on the basis of merit, taking into account the needs of the court,” Dave Taylor, a spokesman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said in an e-mail. “As we move forward, we are confident that our Government’s goal of a balanced, meritorious and diverse bench will be realized.”

Members of the legal community interviewed for this story said they believe the Liberals are stepping up efforts to bring about gender parity on the bench. Several lawyers said they welcome that effort. “As a middle-aged white guy, I’m not concerned about what might be interpreted as a disproportionate number of women who are appointed to the bench,” Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser said in an interview. “If it takes a little bit of corrective action to get us close to a properly representative judiciary, I think it’s fine.”

During the Conservatives’ period in office, from 2006 to 2015, women made up 30 per cent of judicial appointments. The Liberals made several changes to the appointment process in 2016, including asking applicants to fill out questionnaires describing what equity and diversity mean to them. And for the first time, they asked applicants their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability status, promising to make the data public. (The judicial affairs office says it will make these more detailed figures for the second year of Liberal appointments under this process public in October. Several of the 2018 appointees are members of racial minority groups.)

The appointment process has two main stages. Applicants are screened by one of 17 judicial advisory committees made up of federal and other representatives. Then the government chooses from the list of candidates recommended or highly recommended by the committees.

Some lawyers stressed the importance of merit in judicial appointments. “I certainly support gender equity but the overriding factor has to be choosing the best candidates, as far as I’m concerned,” Andrew Rouse, a litigator in Fredericton, said in an interview.

Heather Treacy, a lawyer in Calgary, said she applauds the trend “provided it is balanced with ensuring top-quality candidates are appointed. This is less of a current concern given the increased numbers of very able females engaged in the legal profession.”

Others offered unqualified praise. “I think it’s terrific movement in the right direction,” said Brian Facey, who practices competition law in Toronto.

Rosemary Cairns Way, who teaches law at the University of Ottawa and monitors diversity in judicial appointments, said the jump in the overall proportion of women on the bench is noteworthy. It “demonstrates that achieving gender parity requires action (as opposed to faith in a ‘trickle-up’ process),” she said in an e-mail.

As for the greater proportion of women applying for the federal bench, she said, “I suspect it is because potential women applicants are more confident that the skills, experience, and expertise they present are more likely to be valued.”

via Ottawa appointing more female judges, but bench still short of gender parity – The Globe and Mail

Bagnall: Is Shopify’s board of directors too male, too white?

Good for Meriel Bradford, who I worked with in the 90s, for calling them out:

It wasn’t the question most of Shopify’s board of directors had been expecting.

The six individuals — all white, five of them male — had just concluded the business portion of the annual shareholders’ meeting Wednesday morning and had opened the proceedings to queries from ordinary shareholders.

Given what a spectacular year Shopify had just concluded — revenue in 2017 had jumped 73 per cent, pushing the share price to record levels — the directors, the stewards of the company, were anticipating a gentle time of it.

Meriel Bradford, a shareholder and retiree, was the first to grasp the microphone. She had warned Shopify’s CEO and co-founder Tobias Lütke privately what was coming, but didn’t know if he had shared this with his fellow directors.

Bradford, a former vice-president of Teleglobe and senior bureaucrat at Global Affairs and other federal departments, spoke with authority. She told the directors diversity was important for any company aspiring to be global.

“This board doesn’t have it,” she said.

Bradford had their attention. “What’s the problem and how can we help you fix it?”

Responsibility for the answer fell to John Phillips, head of the board committee responsible for finding candidates to serve as director. Phillips acknowledged the preponderance of white males on Shopify’s board before adding, “We’re constantly searching for great talent.”

It was a weak response. Bradford pressed the point. “I suggest your search technique is poor,” she said before taking her seat.

It’s difficult to deny the boardrooms of many high-tech firms lack diversity, whether it involves gender, colour or sexual orientation. But was Bradford’s assertion fair?

This newspaper examined the makeup of the boards that guide 15 companies that Shopify considers its peers, at least when it comes to the important matter of compensation for executives and directors. (These included firms such as HubSpot, Zendesk, Cornerstone OnDemand, Atlassian and Etsy, which were listed in the circular distributed in advance of Wednesday’s meeting of shareholders.)

Most of the peer firms have eight or nine directors, more than Shopify’s six, and do exhibit more diversity, especially when it comes to gender. Half of Zendesk’s eight directors are women, for instance, as is the case at Etsy.

Given that high-tech firms tend to draw heavily from the male-dominated worlds of engineering and finance for their board talent, this is all the more notable.

Just two of Atlassian’s nine board members are women but one, Shona Brown, runs the show as chair.

As for colour, well, let’s just say visible minorities in this group are generally the exception. Nevertheless, the companies do appear to be making some strides diversifying in general.

For instance, Cornerstone OnDemand, a California software firm, has nominated former Jiva Software CEO Elisa Steele to serve as chair of the board. Steele is expected to be confirmed in this role June 14.

Boston-based Wayfair, another software firm that Shopify counts among its peers, last month named Andrea Jung to its board. Jung, the former CEO of Avon Products, is a well-known pioneer for businesswomen and also serves on the board of Apple.

Five weeks ago, another Boston-based software peer, HubSpot, revealed that India-born, Brazilian-raised entrepreneur Avanish Sahai had joined the firm’s directors.

At the conclusion of Shopify’s shareholders’ meeting at the firm’s Elgin Street headquarters, Bradford chatted amiably with fellow shareholders. A couple of Shopify employees came by to introduce themselves, but none from management or the board. “It surprises me that no one is reaching out,” she said referring to the top guns.

It’s perhaps less puzzling if you examine the detail of the management circular distributed in advance of the meeting.  In it, there’s a section that deals with the company’s policy on diversity. It notes the board of directors “values diversity of abilities, experience, perspective, education, gender, background, race and national origin.”  When considering nominees for the board, the policy reads, “diversity is taken into consideration. Currently, one of our six directors (Gail Goodman) is a woman.”

Bradford’s point was simply that Shopify can do better than that.

Source: Bagnall: Is Shopify’s board of directors too male, too white?

Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

So much for MBS’s efforts to present an image of reform:

Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.

Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.

The women activists had persistently called for the right to drive, but stressed that this was only the first step toward full rights. For years, they also called for an end to less visible forms of discrimination, such as lifting guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.

Their movement was seen as part of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom, which remains an absolute monarchy where protests are illegal and where all major decision-making rests with the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.

Rights activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among the seven detained. Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, in which 50 women were arrested for driving and lost their passports and their jobs.

All five women are well-known activists who agitated for greater women’s rights. Several of the women were professors at state-run universities and are mothers or grandmothers.

The Interior Ministry on Saturday did not name those arrested, but said the group is being investigated for communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.

The stunning arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving next month.

When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.

Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.

As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.

Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”

“The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the arrests of dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as critics of his foreign policies. He also led an unprecedented shakedown of top princes and businessmen, forcing them to hand over significant portions of their wealth in exchange for their freedom as part of a purported anti-corruption campaign.

In an interview with CBS in March, he said that he was “absolutely” sending a message through these arrests that there was a new sheriff in town.

Activists say writer Mohammed al-Rabea and lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimigh, two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners, are also among the seven detained. Al-Mudaimigh defended al-Hathloul in court when she was arrested in late 2014 for more than 70 days for her online criticism of the government and for attempting to bring attention to the driving ban by driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia.

Those familiar with the arrests say al-Hathloul was forcibly taken by security forces earlier this year from the UAE, where she was residing, and forced back to the kingdom.

In recent weeks, activists say several women’s rights campaigners were also banned from travelling abroad.

Immediately after news of the arrests broke, pro-government Twitter accounts were branding the group as treasonous under an Arabic hashtag describing them as traitors for foreign embassies.

The pro-government SaudiNews50 Twitter account, with its 11.5 million followers, splashed images of those arrested with red stamps over their face that read “traitor” and saying that “history spits in the face of the country’s traitors.”

The state-linked Al-Jazirah newspaper published on its front-page a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the nation.

Activists told the AP that some in the group were arrested on Tuesday and at least one person was arrested Thursday. They say the detainees were transferred from the capital, Riyadh, to the city of Jiddah for interrogations where the royal court has relocated for the month of Ramadan.

Activists say it’s not clear why the seven have been arrested now.

via Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors – The Globe and Mail

Women in tech gain experience but their pay gap with men gets worse – Recode

Scope for more analysis here to explain the growing disparity beyond the possible explanation of more balance between work and family:

The pay disparity between women and men is often framed as a difference in experience. But women actually miss out on pay as they gain experience, according to new data from tech job platform Hired.

Within the first two years of working in a tech job, women in the U.S. ask for and receive 98 percent of what their male counterparts make in the same job at the same company, according to the report.

Over time, that disparity grows.

On average, women with seven to 10 years of experience, for example, ask for about 90 cents on the dollar and are offered slightly more — 93 cents for every dollar a man is offered. Women with 13 to 14 years of experience ask for 94 cents for every dollar and receive just 92 cents.

There are a number of reasons for this gap beyond simply asking for less and in turn receiving less. Entry-level jobs usually have more clear-cut salary data, so men and women alike know what a specific position is worth. As job candidates advance in their careers, data on a position’s salary becomes spottier, and raises and promotions are not dealt out equally between men and women.

Exacerbating this is the fact that salary requests tend to be based on current salary. That means that if, say, a woman doesn’t receive the same promotions and raises as her male counterparts, she will ask for less than men in each subsequent position, compounding the salary disparity over time.

Additionally, as women get older, they’re also more likely to have children, which is also linked to lower salaries.

The situation is worse for women of color or those who identify as LGBTQ.

Black and Latina women in tech make 90 cents for every dollar a white man makes. That’s a marked improvement over last year but the gulf is still substantial.

Overall, the study found that, in the U.S., men are offered higher salaries than women for the same position 63 percent of the time. It also found that companies offer women 4 percent less than men for the same role, on average. This is basically the same as last year’s findings.

Salary data reflects base pay only and is drawn from a sample of 420,000 interview requests and job offers among 10,000 participating companies and about 98,000 job candidates. Demographics data is self-reported. Hired job seekers set a preferred salary, and companies have to include compensation information for every interview request.

via Women in tech gain experience but their pay gap with men gets worse – Recode