Bold Steps to Break Bias and Hack Genderist Algorithm – Manila Bulletin

The world we live in is modern, highly connected, digital and highly dependent on smart solutions developed by the technology industry. In recent years, interest and investment has increased in the Philippine tech industry, especially in the vibrant startup ecosystem. The Philippines has even been named as the next start-up hub in Asia due to the related growth over the past decade.

Despite the excitement generated by the great strides of Filipino startups, the local ecosystem still faces pressing challenges, one of which is the under-representation of women in the industry.


In 2020, the Philippines would have over 400 registered startups and over 35 incubators and accelerators to support them. In the same year, about 18% of startup founders in the Philippines were women and about 27% to 47% of tech industry workers were women, with a significantly higher quit rate than men in the same industry. . While these numbers may not be enough, they are hardly shocking, as evidenced by the fact that 73% of the tech industry thinks the industry is sexist.

“A lot of people still don’t appreciate the importance of having more women in tech. Whether deliberately or not, women have always been systematically excluded or discouraged from participating in the sector,” said Katrina Rausa Chan, Executive Director of QBO Innovation Hub, an organization at the forefront of the Philippine startup ecosystem “We often talk about empathy and customer-centric design as being at the heart of any successful technology product. It should be obvious that for a company to reach its full potential, we should not ignore the contributions of half the population, and yet the sad truth is that we often do.The lack of female representation in technology and innovation, and investments in female-led startups have led to everything from gendered AI widely used in credit scoring and job screening, to smartphones are tall and medical devices that don’t really work for the female anatomy,” Chan adds.

Diversity also drives innovation. People with different backgrounds, skills, and opinions bring different perspectives to an issue, which means keeping an eye out for biases and biases impacting the product. It’s nice to have more diverse brains, looking at the same challenge. Studies also show that diversified companies are more successful financially.

“Part of the problem is that the algorithm is inherently gender biased,” Chan said. “It’s built on data from historically unequal systems, systems that were designed primarily by men.”

However, in the decade that Chan and QBO Innovation Hub have been involved in the startup industry in the Philippines, it has been made clear that this is not about fighting the system but rather about disrupting it. It’s about female and male allies changing the system together.

PINay Boot

For QBO Innovation Hub’s Startup Pinay Initiative – a pioneer in supporting and empowering Filipino founders, connecting and growing the local startup ecosystem to welcome more women and allies, and transmitting knowledge. investment and technology innovation led by women – this is their biggest hack. Using technology and their platform, they are meeting the challenge head-on by hacking the sexist algorithm and making the startup Pinay and its community of empowered women visible in algorithms already targeting Filipina women.

“With Startup Pinay, our goal is to hack the conversations, rigid ways of thinking, and norms of startup culture that reinforce existing and often harmful gender stereotypes and use the algorithm to our advantage,” Chan explained. . “We raise awareness of gender and diversity issues in the industry through Filipina influencers and their social media feeds. We educate our community on the root causes and consequences of the underrepresentation of Filipino women in STEM. Then, we engage Filipina women and their allies to actively mobilize to be represented in tech by providing immediate opportunities. Instead of holding ourselves back, we use the algorithm to scale.

The Startup Pinay program has been recognized as the Asia-Pacific Champion by the UN Women-Women Economic Principles Awards for the impact it has created.


“hack the algorithm”

QBO takes “algorithm hacking” literally and figuratively.

Earlier this year, they launched their flagship videos, a series of commercials that empower Filipino women in tech to go beyond their interests, cultivate big ideas and turn them into opportunities. businesses through programs like Startup Pinay. The videos used contextual advertising, an automated process where a promotional message is paired with relevant digital content. In this case, QBO through Startup Pinay took stereotypical female interests and turned them into business ideas and startup opportunities. The campaign in partnership with Investing In Women, launched on Facebook and YouTube, has collectively garnered nearly 10 million impressions and engagements.

Figuratively, it’s about hacking old ways and charting a new course for Filipino women, the tech industry, and future generations through Startup Pinay and its wide range of programs and campaigns.

For Filipino women, it is crucial to create a safe space in which they are encouraged and able to reach their full potential as important players in the country’s journey towards digitalization. QBO and Startup Pinay are fostering this through their Startup Pinay BOOTQAMP, a four-week program that empowers women through technology by validating business ideas and gaining early traction for these female-led startups, as well as offering a series of learning and mentoring sessions focused on validating and launching a scalable business venture.

The call within the Filipino tech industry is to work together to build and grow it into the ecosystem that Filipinos deserve – the call for diversity and inclusiveness in the tech industry never stops not to the sex of the people who participate in it, but continues in the ideas put out there and the needs met. QBO further supports the industry and fosters growth within the ecosystem through INQBATION and AQELERATION, a series of incubation and acceleration programs in partnership with organizations such as Microsoft and DTI. The programs aim to provide incubatees in the start-up and growth phase with several learning sessions led by esteemed and seasoned mentors.

These efforts and goals extend beyond today – it is important to work for future generations where there are no gaps, no divisions but a coming together for a change of mindset where all world is on an equal and fair footing. To achieve this, QBO invests in youth through intercollegiate competitions such as QOMPETE, or training and education sessions for students interested in startups.

“It’s an uphill battle, and we’re only at the beginning,” said Chan, who also shared his vision for the program. no need.



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