Could Ad Algorithms Affect Tech’s Diversity?

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Are algorithms at the heart of the tech industry’s lack of diversity?

That’s the assertion of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the International Computer Science Institute, who used a tool called AdFisher to surface and analyze Google-served job ads on third-party websites. “They found that fake Web users believed by Google to be male job seekers were much more likely than equivalent female job seekers to be shown a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs when they later visited a news website,” reads MIT Technology Review’s summary of the research.

The researchers remain unclear about the reasons behind the dichotomy. Google’s ad-delivery platform is complex, making it difficult to fully determine why specific ads are targeted to certain users visiting third-party sites. The researchers found their results disquieting nonetheless, especially in light of that lack of transparency.

Advertisements and algorithms are just part of the industry’s perceived diversity problem, however. “I think it’s our fault—‘our’ meaning the whole tech community,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told Mashable before this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. “I think in general we haven’t done enough to reach out and show young women that it’s cool to do it and how much fun it can be.”

Google executives have pointed fingers at the education system, which they blame for not graduating enough women and minorities with STEM degrees. Still others have accused the culture at most tech companies as not being particularly friendly to those who don’t fall within certain demographic groups. While there have been efforts to make firms more diverse, gains have been slow.

Image Credit: majson/Shutterstock.com

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