Microsoft Launches Code; Without Barriers To Tackle The Gender Imbalance in AI

Women in AI
Women are very much underrepresented in AI and account for only 26% of data and AI positions in the workforce. 
(Singapore – Media Outreach) Microsoft and thirteen companies across nine Asia Pacific countries, on 23 September 2021, launched Code; Without Barriers to increase employability of female technical talent and nurture entrepreneurs and help close the gender gap in the region’s fast-growing cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technology sectors. 

RELEVANT SUSTAINABLE GOALS 

MICROSOFT CODE; WITHOUT BARRIERS

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become embedded in everyday life around the world, touching how we work, play, purchase and communicate. The power of AI lies in its potential to improve lives, but this potential can only be realized if AI represents the entire population. Increasing diversity in AI development is crucial to delivering equitable outcomes.
 
Women are very much underrepresented in AI and in the tech industry more broadly. A 2020 World Economic Forum report on gender parity suggests women account for only 26% of data and AI positions in the workforce. This is time to get more women into AI. 
gender disparity in AI
Code; Without Barriers programme provides a platform to enable female developers, coders, and other technical talent to contribute towards inclusive economic growth, encourage innovation and better reflect the societal makeup of their region. 
“The balance between consumption and creation is changing. We see developers increasingly influencing every business process and function. Which is why Code; Without Barriers was created. We identified an urgent need to increase the diversity of cloud, AI and technical talent in APAC, so every country can achieve their national digital agendas and have truly inclusive economic growth,” said Andrea Della Mattea, President for Microsoft in Asia Pacific.
The partners in the program include Accenture, AvePoint, Government Big Data Institute (GBDi), HCL Technologies, Just Analytics, MetLife, NTT Ltd, PALO IT, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (PETRONAS), Simbiotik Technologies, Thoughtworks, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK), and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM).
 
These organizations operate in the areas of education, energy, financial services, public sector and technology in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Microsoft will provide skilling and certification in cloud and AI to increase the technical talent pools in the countries. Each of the 13 companies is committed to improving diversity within their organizations and offers career opportunities to female creators and developers. Equally, through a series of engagements, from career fairs to hackathons to mentorship and support from business leaders, Code; Without Barriers will nurture and develop female entrepreneurs in APAC. 
 
Code; Without Barriers works with more than 21 developer communities across APAC, reaching more than 407,000 developers across data, AI, DevOps, Java, JavaScript and Python and Women in Tech.
 
To start, Code; Without Barriers has piloted 18 Women in AI certification programs across eight APAC markets, training more than 480 women, and certifying 203 developers. Microsoft also hosted cloud skills challenges for more than 7,617 developers.

Gender-diverse teams are smarter and more productive. Hiring women in technology roles adds far more than a fresh perspective. Recent studies quantifiably demonstrate that gender-diverse enterprises demonstrably more innovation and higher returns than the mean overall. Programs like Microsoft’s Code; Without Barriers go a long way toward bridging that critical gap.

Gina Smith, PhD (IDC's Lead Analyst for DevOps and Digital Innovation, Asia Pacific Region)
“It is an established fact that having more women in the tech industry benefits companies and societies. But creating the conditions for a more diverse workforce is a complex challenge – no single organization can do this alone. We have a shared responsibility to simultaneously remove barriers and uplift women, and I’m thrilled to see companies and organizations collaborate through Code; Without Barriers,” said Leanne Robers, Co-founder and Co-CEO, She Loves Tech.
microsoft Code without barriers partners
“We can’t do this in isolation and are thankful that organizations across industry sectors have joined us in APAC,” shared Annie Mathew, Director, Developer Relations and Program Lead for Code; Without Barriers at Microsoft in APAC.

SUSTAINING DIVERSITY BY ADVOCATING FOR RESPONSIBLE AI

Microsoft’s Code; Without Barriers team is taking this further, with an upcoming community playbook that tackles how to handle bias and how to sustain diversity in emerging tech
 
“Communities look to Microsoft to address and share the best practices in Responsible AI, so that they can build in diversity, reduce bias, and ensure transparency in the work that they do. We are empowering a new generation of women in technology through Code; Without Barriers,” concluded Ms Mathew. 
 
Learn more about Code; Without Barriers: Listen to their Podcast series on Spotify, watch the YouTube playlist, and read more at https://aka.ms/codewithoutbarriers 

ABOUT MICROSOFT : 

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
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