News Archives - Legacy Communications (2024)

Exploring gender bias in AI: Why does AI assume most leaders are men?

Recent research conducted by Legacy Communications explored how AI-generated images exhibit a troubling gender bias when tasked with creating workplace images.

To conduct the research, Legacy Communications used an AI natural language processing tool to generate prompts that were fed into an AI image generator to create images of typical professional roles.

The language processing tool was asked to describe different job roles, with the prompts being carefully crafted to avoid any potential bias that would influence the image. The prompt created by the AI NLP tool was then pasted into an AI image generation tool, which was asked to produce specific images based on the given prompt.

As an example, the researchers at Legacy asked the tool to give them a prompt to create an image of a CEO, which resulted in the following response from the AI:

“imagine a powerful and confident CEO in a modern office setting. The CEO is dressed in professional attire, exuding authority and leadership. The background features a stylish office with large windows, a sleek desk, and contemporary decor. Capture the essence of success and professionalism in the CEO’s demeanour.”

When given the prompt, the AI image generator created 2 images of a man as exhibited in the image below:

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Image 1: A male CEO is wearing professional attire, and is depicted sitting behind his desk in his office, overlooking the city.

On exploring further, the team at Legacy found that the AI image generation tool associated leadership roles such as “CEO”, “Boss”, “Entrepreneur”, “Pilot”, and “Manager” with white males, consistently depicting them in professional attire, wearing dark or neutral clothing.

Contrary to this, according to images generated by the AI, women are not occupying leadership positions especially when it comes to C Suite leadership positions.

When prompted to create an image of a CEO, CFO, COO & CIO the AI image tool created 2 images of men for each position.

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Image 2: A male CFO is wearing professional attire and is depicted sitting at his desk studying some reports

The AI image generator only created female versions for the positions of CMO and CHRO. When prompted to create an image of a CMO it generated one male image and one female image, and in the case of a CHRO it generated 2 female images.

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Image 3: A female CHRO is wearing professional attire and is depicted sitting behind her desk in an office with staff behind her.

In the USA women make up 47.4% of the workforce and 42% of managerial positions. The percentage of women in leadership roles falls to 42% in Ireland and falls even further to 30% in the UK.

But in an era where the focus is on breaking down gender barriers and promoting equality, even though it is a very new and modern technology, AI still has a tendency to reinforce stereotypical gender roles and presents a significant flaw in the system.

A pattern emerges when the AI image generation tool generates images of women, where women are depicted in junior roles such as “Assistants” or “Receptionists”, and are rarely shown in senior management positions.

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Image 4: When prompted to create an image of a lawyer the tool depicted a male lawyer wearing professional attire and is depicted sitting behind his desk in an office. (53% of lawyers in the UK are women, 52% of solicitors in Ireland are women, as well as 40% of women lawyers in the US)

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Image 5: When prompted to create an image of a judge, the tool created a male judge sitting behind his desk is wearing a black robe and glasses. (34% of US judges are female)

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Image 6: When asked to imagine a police officer, the AI tool generateed a male police officer wearing his uniform and bulletproof vest, despite 35% of UK police officers identifying as female and 30% of the Irish Gardaí identifying as female

Another interesting pattern emerges where AI associates professions such as “Teacher” and “Nurse” as female-oriented, potentially implying that only women are capable of caring for people. This bias reflects societal perceptions that mainly link caring and nurturing roles to women. According to research, societal stereotypes often portray women as more communal and nurturing, aligning with roles such as teaching and nursing. On the flip side, men are frequently depicted as decision-makers in business-related matters and are assumed to be more eligible than women for leadership positions.

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Image 7: When prompted to create an image of a teacher, the tool generated a female teacher smiling in class surrounded by her students.

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Image 8: When prompted to create an image of a doctor, the AI tool generates a male doctor who smiles softly at the camera from a hospital setting. (Almost half of doctors in the UK are female)

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Image 9: By contrast, when asked to generate an image of a nurse, the AI image generator creates a female nurse smiling and wearing a stethoscope around her neck.

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Image 10: When asked to generate an image of an accountant, the AI image generator creates a male accountant happily reviewing reports. (In the US, 61% of accountants are women)

Legacy Communications conducted the research to explore if artificial intelligence portrays gender bias in the workplace. The findings reveal a troubling bias in AI-generated images, which perpetuates stereotypes and supports old-fashioned ideas about gender and race, despite the technology being so new and perceived as a next-generation technology.

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Mícheál Brennan, at Legacy Communications said: “We stumbled across this by accident while working on some basic concept images for an internal project. As we prompted the tool, we noticed a pattern in the way the AI image generator portrayed different professional roles, with gender and racial bias clearly being exhibited by the tool. We had assumed that because AI technology has emerged in the modern era, there would be no such issues, but after noticing the initial pattern we decided to explore it further, and we were astounded by the results, especially considering AI has often been accused of being too ‘woke’, but our research showed it to be the exact opposite, exhibiting massive gender and racial bias.

At Legacy, we pride ourselves on not making assumptions, whether that’s assumptions about people or businesses or about anything. When building campaigns, we tend to explore everything, so when we noticed this pattern it felt like a natural piece of research to delve deeper into and when we explored it in depth, we were surprised to find that AI unfortunately can make a lot of assumptions, particularly in the case of women in the workplace, as exhibited by the images that were generated, especially when it came to leadership and managerial positions”

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Also commenting on the findings, Lauren Duggan, Co-founder of Riley, a company that supplies Eco Friendly period products said: “The gender bias exhibited by AI in depicting leadership roles is not just a technological flaw; it has real-world implications. It can influence perceptions and decision-making, potentially hindering the progress we’ve made in breaking down gender barriers. As female entrepreneurs, we understand the importance of challenging these biases to create a more inclusive future.”

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Jess Flack, CEO & Co-founder of Ubiquitous, an influencer marketing agency said: “This is exactly why representation matters. The fact is, AI is simply analysing tens of thousands of data points to deliver a consensus. It’s a mirror, devoid of subjectivity. So to me, this isn’t surprising – it’s a direct reflection of the stereotypes that have existed in culture/media for decades. I haven’t met a female or BIPOC executive who hasn’t struggled with impostor syndrome (myself included) because we didn’t grow up seeing people who look like us in leadership roles. We’ve made great strides over the last 10 years when it comes to representation (which will benefit future generations) but it’s up to us as a society to break the glass ceiling once and for all.”

The full list of AI images can be viewed below:

Agency executive

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Architect

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Army general

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Baker

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Bartender

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Boss and their Assistant

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Butcher

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Carpenter

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Chef

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Childcare worker

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Chiropractor

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CIO

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Cleaner

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CMO

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Construction worker

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COO

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Dentist and their assistant

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Electrician

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Engineer

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Entrepreneur

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Farmer

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Firefighter

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Fitness Trainer

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Flight attendant

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Graphic designer

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Hairdresser

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IT Manager

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Journalist

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Librarian

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Lifeguard

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Mechanic

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Miner

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Optician

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Pilot

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Plumber

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Politican

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Pre-school teacher

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President

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Receptionist and their boss

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Sailor

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Sales Manager

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Scientist

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Shop Assistant

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Shop Manager

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Taxi Driver

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Truck Driver

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Vet

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News Archives - Legacy Communications (2024)

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