Equal Rights Trust and Mary Kay to research inequality in AI

Mary Kay’s work with Equal Rights Trust is focused on framing the new landscape of AI and gender equality, a growing concern in the digital age

“Bias in AI” has been a critical area of research and concern for a long time, but now over the past couple of years, it has grown in awareness among consumer audiences as knowledge of AI has grown.

Mary Kay Inc., a global leader in women’s empowerment, has recently announced a partnership with the Equal Rights Trust (ERT), an organisation whose mission is to eliminate all forms of discrimination and ensure everyone can participate in society on an equal basis. 

Established in 2007, the Trust works in partnership to advance equality through law around the world. As part of this collaboration, Mary Kay will help ERT jumpstart an innovative field of research on artificial intelligence and algorithms through a gender-based lens.

“As a company founded on the mission to enrich the lives of women everywhere, Mary Kay is constantly on the lookout for organisations we can partner with to make an impact for gender equality globally,” said Julia Simon, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Diversity Officer of Mary Kay Inc. “We’re excited to support Equal Rights Trust on their work to help advance equality by design and beyond forge a way forward to collaborations with the private sector. Our work with ERT is specifically focused on framing the new landscape of artificial intelligence and gender equality, a growing concern in the digital age.”


Discriminatory impacts of technologies 

Mary Kay’s support to the ERT will pioneer a new field of research on the discriminatory impact of algorithmic systems. ERT has developed and promoted models of equality impact assessment, advocating an “equality by design” approach in public and private decision making as a means to ensure non-discrimination and equality of participation. An immediate priority is to launch an initiative to establish and address the emerging discriminatory impacts of algorithmic decision-making, specifically as it relates to gender.

“The use of algorithms and artificial intelligence is spreading,” said Ariane Adam, Deputy Director of the Equal Rights Trust. “These technologies are rapidly becoming essential parts of the analytical, communication, and even legal infrastructure for our societies. Despite the global proliferation of such systems, we are only just beginning to understand the flaws, limitations, and boundaries of algorithmic decision-making, especially in terms of discrimination. We’re pleased to partner with Mary Kay to shine light on the potentially discriminatory impacts of using such technologies, in particular for women.”

The delivery of the initiative can be broken into three phases:

  • Phase 1: research on emerging discriminatory impacts of the use of algorithmic decision making in the areas of employment, access to loans, and access to housing, including a focus on the impact of women as a group particularly exposed to discrimination in these contexts.
  • Phase 2: engagement with a wide range of actors to develop advocacy strategies to call for equality by design approach in the design, development, roll-out, and monitoring of AI technologies.
  • Phase 3: engaging with international, regional, and national actors to set standards mandating equality by design approach.




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