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Algorithm: The New Form of Patriarchy

Algorithm: The New Form of Patriarchy

Algorithm: The New Form of Patriarchy

In the realm of technology, where algorithms reign supreme and code dictates our digital reality, a subtle yet potent form of patriarchy lurks beneath the surface. Come with me as I explore the basis of my deeply held suspicion that the algorithm is a new and pervasive form of patriarchy.

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More White Men

According to techUK, less than a tenth (8.5%) of senior leaders in UK tech are from ethnic minority groups, and as little as a sixth (16%) of IT professionals are female. In the US, as of 2021, only 26.7% of tech jobs are held by women, with men accounting for 79% of all executive tech roles and 62% of jobs being held by white Americans. Furthermore, these figures haven’t changed significantly over the preceding decade. Hence, the tech industry remains predominantly dominated by white males, despite the progressive façade of innovation and inclusivity.

So what of it do I hear you ask? Most professional areas of life are dominated by white males, so what’s the issue with this also being the case in the technology industry as well? Here’s the issue. Tech is not just defining our lives; it is designing them too. From search results to how to spend digital advertising budgets, we are all categorised by what we do online. This data is then used to ‘retarget’ us towards things that the algorithm thinks we want. But do we?

The risk is that domination by this demographic hegemony perpetuates a skewed perspective in the creation of algorithms, shaping our digital landscapes in ways that mirror the biases and privileges of their creators.

The Devil’s in the Detail… of the Code

The very foundation of our digital world is built upon lines of code crafted by human hands. These lines of code, despite the aforementioned rudimentary attempts of the tech industry to be inclusive, are imbued with the ideologies and biases of their creators.

These dictate everything from search engine results to social media feeds, all the way up to using algorithms for predictive policing systems. So now we can start to see where the danger is. While it seems quite innocuous to have the algo continue to throw up advertisements of that handmade quilt on Etsy you’ve had your eye on, when it comes to the latest RoboCop policing your family, friends, and yes, maybe you, the whole picture changes very quickly.

Ask yourself this: could it be possible for the authors of this code not to, at best, inadvertently and at worst intentionally bias this technology to one particular group’s strategic advantage? When the vast majority of those hands belong to white males, it should be no surprise that the resulting algorithms reflect and perpetuate their worldview.

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Lack of Diversity and Policy

The lack of diversity in tech is not merely a matter of representation; it’s a systemic issue that perpetuates inequality and reinforces existing power structures. When the majority of tech jobs are filled by white males, the perspectives, experiences, and needs of marginalized groups are often overlooked or disregarded. This creates a feedback loop where algorithms, designed to optimize efficiency or profitability, inadvertently perpetuate discrimination and inequality.

Consider, for example, the biased facial recognition algorithms that have been shown to misidentify people of colour at significantly higher rates than white individuals. Or the hiring algorithms that perpetuate gender stereotypes by favouring male candidates over equally qualified female applicants. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents but symptoms of a larger issue that is a result of the algorithmic echo chamber that has been created by the homogeneity of the tech industry.

The consequences of this skewed perspective are far-reaching and multifaceted. From reinforcing gender norms to perpetuating racial discrimination, algorithmic bias seeps into every aspect of our lives, shaping our perceptions, decisions, and opportunities. It’s not just about who gets hired or promoted in tech companies; it’s about whose voices are heard and whose experiences are validated in the digital realm. Which, in truth, permeates absolutely everything in this day and age, from our banking needs to paying for parking.

F*ck The New Form of Patriarchy

Addressing this new form of patriarchy requires a multifaceted approach that goes beyond mere tokenism or diversity quotas. It requires a fundamental shift in the culture and values of the tech industry, prioritizing inclusivity, empathy, and social responsibility. It means actively challenging the status quo and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities in the design and implementation of algorithms.

Furthermore, it requires accountability and transparency in algorithmic decision-making processes. Tech companies must be held accountable for the impact of their algorithms on society, and mechanisms for auditing and addressing bias must be implemented. This includes diversifying the teams responsible for developing and testing algorithms, as well as ensuring that ethical considerations are prioritized throughout the development lifecycle.

Ultimately, dismantling the algorithmic patriarchy requires a collective effort from individuals, organizations, and policymakers alike. It requires challenging ingrained biases and actively working towards a more inclusive and equitable future. Only then can we truly harness the power of technology to uplift and empower all members of society, rather than perpetuating the injustices of the past.

Jessie Louise


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