Gender and AI

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society
The Oxford Internet Institute are awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship in partnership with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. This doctoral research will make use of a range of social science methods to study the gender impact of artificial intelligence (AI) systems in business or work contexts. AI is widely recognised as a transformative technology across sectors, and more organisations need to take steps to implement best practice for its responsible application, in ways that will empower and benefit everyone inclusively. The “gender data gap” (Perez 2019) of less data about women in health and safety drives one of the concerns about the potential of new AI-enabled tools to increase social inequalities. The other is making existing differences in social outcomes such as gendered pay gaps or differences in hiring a part of seemingly accurate systems. Gender bias in AI systems and in the development of AI are well-known problems with no easy solutions. This project will be an opportunity to do doctoral research on how organisations recognise and respond to this problem.

The aims of the project are to empirically assess the factors that support or challenge the creation of more equitable data systems and to conduct a specific qualitative, quantitative or computational study on one of these factors which may include challenges with AI and gender equality in job hiring, pay, workforce opportunities, inclusion in the AI workforce or similar factor. Specific research questions for this project can draw from the broad areas of needed research identified in the recent report AI and Gender: Four Proposals for Future Research on gender theory and AI practice, law and policy, biased datasets, and diversity in the AI workforce. An example could be research on what companies are doing to align the definition of fairness from the perspective of gender-equality with the technical and legal definitions of fairness in the job hiring process in order to produce evidence-based, context-specific, gender-specific guidelines for datasets which may help to reduce bias and encourage the fairer use of data. It is expected that this doctoral project will be a multi-method social scientific project that will draw strongly on gender theory, science and technology studies and critical data studies.

The project partner, the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society is a coalition of partners from around the world who advocate for women’s inclusion and access in the economy, and who bring tangible recommendations, innovative solutions and commitments on key social, economic and environmental issues to policymakers at the G7, G20 and other international platforms. Through a specific project on AI & Gender, the Women’s Forum calls on organisations of all sizes, sectors, and from all countries, to apply a gender lens to their AI development and implementation and share best practices.

The PhD studentship will be funded by the ESRC Grand Union DTP for three years (or part-time equivalent) from October 2020. The student will be based in the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. They will be supervised by Dr Gina Neff and supported by Sophie Lambin and Ela Sackville at the Women’s Forum.  

Information about ESRC studentships at Oxford and eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website

How to apply

To apply for the studentship, you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciencesat the University of Oxford by midday 28 February 2020.

Full time candidates: Details about applying and the application link can be found at:

Part-time candidates: Details about applying and the application link can be found at: On the application form, in the section headed ‘Departmental Studentship Applications’, you must indicate that you are applying for a studentship and enter the reference code for this studentship "20DTPOII”.

For all candidates:

Your application should include a research proposal that indicates how your proposed research would engage with the core elements of this project if you were offered the studentship. Your proposal may draw on the description of the research detailed above.

In addition you must complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form  and upload it, together with your graduate application form. Please upload the GUDTP Application Form to the graduate application in the 'Supporting Documents' section using the oversize document upload option. 

The admissions process is in two parts: the applicant will be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the Oxford Internet Institute; the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.

Queries about the studentship may be addressed to