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From Barbies to Bias: Uncovering AI's Potential Impact on Hiring


Back in July, Buzzfeed ran an article with AI generated Barbies from every country in the world...it did not go well.  Harmful stereotypes as well as the impact of westernised beauty standards were seen in many of the AI images, so much so that Buzzfeed removed the article amid a flurry of shocked reactions across social media.

But what lessons can we as recruiters and hiring managers take from this?

We decided to delve into the world of AI images ourselves and, using Midjourney, a leading AI programme, we generated images of people at work. We used the same prompt "photograph of a [insert job title] at work", just changing the job title each time. Here's what we found:

Job sectors are heavily gender based 

Only men were shown for jobs including: 

  • Accountant
  • Forklift Driver
  • CNC Machinist
  • Welder

...and every type of engineer we tried including Quality, Design, Maintenance and Mechanical.

Whilst the majority of images for these roles were women:

  • Customer Service
  • HR
  • Reception

Job Level had a similar effect

Using the term Assistant showed only women; the term Manager showed only men, as did CEO and boss! (as a side experiment we tried bossy and yes, that only showed women!)

Combining level and sector showed some interesting patterns of bias

Talking Finance as an example, Finance Assistant generated 3 women and 1 man, Finance Manager, generated 3 men and 1 woman, Finance Director generated 4 men. 

This pattern was also seen with other disciplines such as Supply Chain.

Gender wasn't the only issue Barbie doll sitting down

It took over 30 different requests before we saw one person of colour in the AI images. In total we generated 218 faces but at most 3 images appeared to be POC were shown in total.

Overall there were not many images of older individuals but those that were did tend to be male and finally there were issues are inclusivity regarding ableism with no images of anyone 

with a visible disability.

So what does all this mean for AI users in recruitment?

It's not realitic to pretend AI won't be used or that it doesn't have some real benefits, but unlike this Barbie, there's no sitting down on the job and letting AI take the lead. The imag

es we as hiring managers and recruiters chose to use in our social media content, career websites and candidate acquisition materials matter.

So yes, AI is lilkely to be play a part in recruitment and hiring technology from now on, but we believe, maintaining a human touch in the hiring process is irreplaceable. After all, as many have said, you can't be what you can't see. 

Are you hiring workers for your team?

Get in touch with Escape’s recruiters: info@escaperecruitment.com | 01506 461445

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Posted by: Escape Recruitment Services