The ‘We’ in Web stands for equality. But Web 2.0 isn’t always compliant.
Genevieve Smith, associate director at the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership (EGAL) at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, applied online for a credit card at the same time as her husband. They both received their cards, but she was given one with a lower credit limit. She was deemed less creditworthy, although there was no solid reason for it. In fact, she had a better credit score! The “card-issuing algorithm” was to blame, according to the company that issued the card.
Genevieve’s experience reflects one of the many issues with Web 2.0 in relation to gender. But is the much-hyped Web 3.0 ready to bring about a much-needed change? Let’s find out.
- AI bias, lack of exposure, and restricted control over data are major Web 2.0 roadblocks.
- Web 3.0, metaverses, and DAOs can work together to create a more inclusive, gender-neutral ecosystem.
- We need better AI technologies and a crypto-intensive approach to speed up Web 3.0 adoption.
Web 3.0 is more than a buzzword. It aims to be a distributed variant of today’s internet. Emphasizing data ownership, zero service interruptions, and interoperability—the Web 3.0 blueprint is nothing short of impressive.
The “Semantic” side of Web 3.0 is perhaps its most intriguing aspect. “Semantic Web”—as the latest variant of the internet is called—is supposed to be more accurate and proactive in deriving results from available data. If implemented and used right, it might just eliminate the internet’s gender bias.
So among other things, with Web 3.0, credit card issuing algorithms will put a higher credit limit within the reach of Genevieve Smith and many other truly deserving women like her.
Web 2.0: The Challenges
We are still basking in the glory of Web 2.0 today. It continues to make life easier and many previously unthinkable interactions possible. Still, it isn’t doing enough to eliminate biases. Biases in technology are all about the inability of machines involved to take gender-, ethnicity-, and race-neutral decisions.
Let us check out a few relatable technological pain points that will help us understand this better.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) bias
Did you know that car seatbelts and airbags across the globe are designed and manufactured based on test reports from dummy car crashes? As automated as data generation might be, the test subjects used are still mostly men.
One can’t expect these intelligent and automated manufacturing models with their biased (men-derived) data sets to be gender-neutral.
The bias unfortunately comes with a huge price tag: the lives and limbs of pregnant women in crashes. Because most of these car accessories fail to take pregnant women’s bodies into account, it increases the chances of injury and death.
Fact Check: Caroline Criado, author of Invisible Women, explains that the AI bias in car manufacturing makes women at least 17% more prone to life-threatening injuries.
But let’s not assume that AI bias is restricted to car manufacturing. Because it isn’t.
Amazon’s AI-powered hiring model, in early 2015, was biased towards men. The model was responsible for sorting and recommending relevant resumes to the leadership. And it would blandly overlook even some of the most qualified and deserving female candidates. And Amazon wasn’t alone.
Here are some other areas where we see a similar trend:
- Gender-specific data gap in Medicine and Health
- Health apps extrapolating medical conditions based on male-specific data sets
- Obsolete loaning algorithms that are biased towards men
- Erroneous hiring algorithms
Many women have lesser exposure to technology and are more likely to lose job opportunities as a result. Here are some factual pointers to help you understand the “exposure” issue better:
- The number of women across the globe to have internet access on their phones is 300 million lower than men.
- In middle-income countries, we see fewer women owning smartphones—at least 20% less than men.
- Over 160 million women worldwide are being forced to make job and profile transitions, with machines being deployed to replace them.
And while machines are even replacing men, the Replaced-to-Employed ratio in the case of women is staggeringly high.
Lack of data ownership
Data ownership in Web 2.0 is a gender-neutral problem. Regardless of gender, your personal and professional datasets are stored on the company servers and even sold to marketers. As huge an issue this is, lack of control over data availability and usage affects women more than men.
In an era where we voice opinions regarding internet rights, privacy, and security, Web 2.0’s and its dismissive stance towards data ownership and control are still paving the way for many threats. Some of them are:
- Lack of anonymity;
- Scandalous data leaks;
- Impersonation; and
- Botnet attacks.
Fact Check: Koobface, also termed as the largest botnet in the Web 2.0 ecosystem, is a genuine threat that can compromise user data stored across social networks.
Can Web 3.0 Eliminate Gender Biases?
The Web 3.0 schema, inclined towards decentralization and autonomy, should be able to solve the issues mentioned above. The extent of these solutions, however, depends on how widely it is accepted as the new generation of technology.
Here are some positive possibilities that are looking more realizable with each passing day.
1. A metaverse for all
With the metaverse and every possibility that’s included within it, attending late-night meetings or visiting faraway locales shouldn’t be a security threat. Besides, as a professional, you can simply reach out to relevant individuals in a virtual space—a realm free of gender biases!
Web 3.0, as the next generation of the internet, is stacked in favor of metaverse adoption for all. For women, though, the concept of metaverse comes with the following possibilities:
- Virtual and augmented space to interact, regardless of borders and time concerns.
- Better control over issues related to harassment, as no real-world presence is required.
- A safer work environment for field-intensive jobs like DJing, hosting, and more.
- A better take on anonymity.
2. Female creators and NFTs
Issues relevant to internet exposure might cease to exist in the new ecosystem. With a focus on digital creators and art forms, that too with improved data ownership, Web 3.0 is supposed to be a more inclusive space for women.
Here are some of the examples that are already making headways in the digital space:
- Maliha Abidi, a Pakistan-born artist, launched her first Non-Fungible Token (NFT) collection a few months back.
- Women NFT creators, like @NFTgirl and @crypto_chicks, are making all the noise on Twitter with their impactful collectibles.
- An NFT collection of 10,000 portraits from Boss Beauties was unveiled at the New York Stock Exchange in October 2021.
And trust me when I say, this is just a sneak peek of what is to come when we embrace Web 3.0 comprehensively.
3. Uniform representation in DAOs
The gender bias in the real world is no surprise. The problem of underrepresentation often prefaces it. But we can expect all of this to change once Web 3.0 goes mainstream.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are coming up the ranks and are expected to change the face of employment and female representation in the years to come.
With Web 3.0 and DAOs joining hands, you can expect the following gender-neutral benefits to surface:
- Development of a socially conscious company structure.
- An ownerless business model where every node (individual) has a say.
- Transparent recruitment and organization governance.
- Decentralized setup to increase visibility across the departments.
- Smart contract-based task handling, which is less prone to human sentiments and biases.
Web 3.0 can solve the pressing gender-relevant issues commonly encountered within the Web 2.0 ecosystem. But a large-scale impact will require tools and resources.
Tools for Gender-Neutrality
Some tools will be required to ensure a seamless transition from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 by making it more gender-neutral. Here are some of the dependable resources that can facilitate the metamorphosis:
Better AI tools
AI models are data mongers. And data is often collated by humans and therefore prone to bias.
Web 3.0 has its eyes set on metaverse adoption, requiring AI and spatial mapping resources to be proactive and semantic. To ensure that every data churn is initiated and every subsequent decision is taken without bias, we need to focus on fairness in AI.
Here’s what we will need along the way:
- Inclusive data capturing;
- Understanding the context of an AI model better, and;
- Use gender-neutral data sets to train models.
Web 3.0, with improved AI tools, might not fixate on “he” or “she”. Instead, we can expect it to bring the “we” into the mix.
A crypto-focused approach
Web 3.0 is trying to achieve maximal decentralization. And for any of the mentioned solutions to work, including the metaverse, DAOs, NFTs, and more, we need to understand and embrace blockchains as one key element.
With metaverses and DAOs being virtual worlds, interacting, transacting, and voting within the ecosystems would require resources or rather relevant crypto assets. Therefore, to succeed in surmounting the Web 2.0 challenges, you will need to incentivize your way into the upcoming decentralized ecosystem that is Web 3.0.
And what could be better than crypto assets like Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and more to help you make a difference.
Are We There Yet? If Not, When Will We Be?
Advances towards Web 3.0 have long started, with the likes of Tavonia Evans, founder of GUAP Coin, and Olayinka Odeniran, the founder of Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC), making the space duly theirs. Besides, women are already on the blockchain side of things and can speed up Web 3.0 adoption faster than anybody else.
Even though large-scale adoption still eludes us, we are witnessing nationwide Web 3.0 meetups with evangelists, creators, artists, IT professionals, and engineers pouring in large numbers. Ideas are being shared as you read, and the Web 3.0 renaissance might not be as far as it was widely believed to be.
Giant Strides by Women in Web 3.0
Before we conclude, here are a few inspiring stories for you:
- Manasi Vora’s Komorebi Collection marks the inception of a female-focussed investment DAO.
- Roya Mahboob, CEO of the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC), has ditched the traditional methods of payments and is paying her employees in bitcoin.
- Jen Greyson, an advocate based out of Utah, is working relentlessly towards empowering women through crypto. She is also a presiding board member of KBA (Kerala Blockchain Academy).
And these are only a handful of visionaries from the very many who are playing their part in shaping up the Web 3.0 ecosystem to the best of their capabilities.
With the development pace moving in spades, it is a matter of time before gender bias gets completely eliminated from the very fabric of the internet. Gender-neutrality isn’t a luxury or choice anymore. It’s compulsory. And its absence from any ecosystem is a big, waving RED FLAG.
Interested in consuming other informative and data-driven pieces! Read and learn more with CoinSwitch by your side. And, also get to know the women BUIDLers at CoinSwitch.
Disclaimer : Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. The information provided in this post is not to be considered as investment/financial advice from CoinSwitch. Any action taken upon the information shall be at user's own risk.
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