Amazon builds sexist hiring robot
AMAZON was forced to abandon a secret artificial intelligence recruiting tool after discovering it was discriminating against women.
According to a report in Reuters, since 2014 Amazon engineers have been building a computer program to review resumes with the goal of automating the talent search process.
The tool would give job candidates a score from one to five stars.
“Everyone wanted this holy grail,” one source told the news agency. “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.”
After a year, however, Amazon realised its system was favouring male candidates for software developer and other technical roles, because it was observing patterns in resumes submitted over a 10-year period — most of which came from men.
It also penalised resumes that included the word “women’s”, according to Reuters, such as in the phrase “women’s chess club captain” and all-women’s colleges.
Even though the program was edited to make it neutral to those terms, the programmers couldn’t guarantee the AI would not teach itself to sort candidates in other discriminatory ways, the report said.
The project was eventually scrapped altogether in early 2017.
It’s understood the project was only ever used in a developmental phase, never independently, and never rolled out to a larger group.
It was abandoned for many reasons — it never returned strong candidates for the roles — and not because of the bias issue.
An Amazon spokeswoman said, “This was never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates.”