iHEALTH held a talk on gender perspective for researchers and students: 

“We want to motivate girls and women to do research and become familiar with STEM areas”

In the Raúl Deves building of the Universidad Católica de Chile,  was held this instance that addressed issues related to the gender gap and existing biases in the world of technology, engineering and medical imaging.

Researchers and students from the iHEALTH Millennium Institute, dedicated to the study and application of engineering and artificial intelligence in medical images in the search to improve medical diagnoses, participated in the talk “Gender perspective and diversities in technology: with what lenses do we look and focus our work”, dictated by Patricia Peña, academic from the Faculty of Communication and Image of the U. de Chile and the Center for Gender and Culture of the same university.

The gender gap in science, engineering and different technologies is a reality that requires the generation of protocols and mechanisms that guide institutions towards a path of parity and diversity. That is why in this instance issues related to the gender gap, the LGBTIQ + community and gender bias in technology were addressed. The latter “are associated with the different stages of development, both of technological solutions, but also of research associated with technology. It has to do with believing that it is not an issue for men or women, but rather that it is a neutral field and technologies are neutral”, said the academic.

In addition to that, they reflected on the idea that men are the ones who create these technologies and women are users. “Historically it has been shown that the field of technology is associated with the masculine, that is, it is a field where men are the ones who create. We have an example of this when we see who invented a large part of the digital platforms that we use most today. The majority are men, white, from universities in the north, from the Anglo-Saxon world, and the women are users and clients”, he explains.

And she adds that “this has to do with the message that women cannot necessarily be creators or founders in the area of ​​technology. For example, who created the mathematical foundations for the algorithms we use today was Ada Lovelace, largely invisible until today.

How do we overcome these biases? “What is proposed is that we have gender approaches or lenses when carrying out our work as researchers or developers in any field of technology, especially now that there is digital technology, artificial intelligence, automation and big data, where there is data circulating on a large scale”, says the specialist.

Specifically, in the area of ​​medical imaging and artificial intelligence, it is very necessary to gradually eliminate this bias. “In imaging, for example, this is crucial, because it has to do with people’s health. If you have a gender approach, you understand that many times the patterns that exist when making diagnoses can be loaded with much more sexist variables. Believing that indeed there are certain diagnoses that occur more in men than in women and not being clear that situations can change if we consider what the gender variables and variables associated with these diagnoses are, can affect the results”, added the speaker.

“Bias is very important for us to consider when drawing conclusions from that data. For example, what happens if our algorithms are trained only with images of men or data from Europeans and not data from Chileans and Chileans. That is why these types of instances are important, to learn and for us to talk about it”, assured the director of iHealth, Claudia Prieto.

“At iHEALTH we are committed to equity and diversity, not just gender, and from the point of view of the research that we do, we want to motivate girls and women to do research and become familiar with STEM areas” , she added.

That is why Patricia Peña made a call to create safe spaces for women, men and dissidents who want to specialize in scientific areas. “You have to be very clear about the mechanisms that are violating certain situations that can make a woman or a person feel uncomfortable during their stay in that place. We must have clear protocols such as workplace, psychological and sexual harassment, which must come from a dialogue and the understanding that making spaces safer and more comfortable depends on and favors us all. The fields of engineering, mathematics and science in general need to be diverse in order to see solutions in a diverse way”.