Amazon scraps 'anti-women' AI recruiting engine

China Plus/China Daily Published: 2018-10-12 16:21:10
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Amazon scraps 'anti-women' AI recruiting engine.[from IC]

Amazon scraps 'anti-women' AI recruiting engine.[from IC]

Amazon's machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women, several people familiar with the project say.

The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants' resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent.

Automation has been key to Amazon's e-commerce dominance, be it inside warehouses or driving pricing decisions.

The company's experimental hiring tool used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars — much like shoppers rate products on Amazon.

"Everyone wanted this holy grail," one person familiar with the project said. "They literally wanted it to be an engine where I'm going to give you 100 resumes, it will spit out the top five, and we'll hire those."

But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way.

That is because Amazon's computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry.

In effect, Amazon's system taught itself that male candidates were preferable. It penalized resumes that included the word "women's," as in "women's chess club captain."

And it downgraded graduates of two all-women's colleges, according to people familiar with the matter.
They did not specify the names of the schools.

Amazon edited the programs to make them neutral to these particular terms.

But that was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory.

Let's take a listen to the discussion between Liu Min and Ryan Price, hosts on Studio+, a daily talk show produced by China Plus. 

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