Published: 01st June 2020
Why you must check out this online tool by a class 11 student that detects gender neutrality in textbooks
Rashmi Patil speaks to Ananya Gupta who is a self-taught Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence expert about the tool she developed to detect if a textbook is gender-neutral or not
When Ananya Gupta told us about the tool that she developed, GRIT Parity (Gender Representation in Textbooks), to find out if textbooks are gender-neutral or not, we were surprised. We had to try it to believe it. So, we checked out her website gritparity.com and tried out the tool by uploading a Social Sciences textbook..The results stated that the textbook was not gender-neutral, in fact, around 96 per cent of the textbook used images and names of men and a small percentage of women. We were truly amazed by the tool but what amazed us even more that something so sophisticated was developed by a eleventh grader. And she developed the tool using her skills in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Ananya, who developed an interest in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence when she was in class VIII, says, "I loved these subjects to the extent that I started learning them on my own. I referred to several YouTube videos, signed up for free courses on Coursera, Udemy and many other websites. When I was in class VIIII, I developed a mobile application with the aim to solve the wet waste problem in Bengaluru. I also exhibited this app at Technovation and won a prize for it. It encouraged me to know more about these subjects. In the last two years, my desk has been full of books related to ML and AI."
But what led Ananya to develop GRIT Parity in the first place? A few months ago, she co-founded the GirlUP chapter at the International Business School. GirlUP is a global UN initiative to promote gender equality. Ananya used to visit government and low-income schools across the city to promote STEM education among young students. She explains, "My visits made me realise that there were deep thoughts of gender bias instilled in the minds of these children. I conducted a survey in these schools to find out why it existed and what they feel about themselves. I understood that the main reasons for these thoughts were the society at large, which is prejudiced against women, and textbooks as well." She continues, "I felt that our textbooks need to be revised because they show men doing various jobs whereas women were only restricted to activities like cooking, washing clothes and jobs like nurse, garbage collector etc. This text and teaching can affect young girls' lives and the career choices they make in the future. So, I decided to develop a tool that could help find out the gender neutrality percentage in any textbook. And it has been my dream to use ML and AI to make a social impact."
It is quite easy to use the GRIT Parity tool. Ananya, who took help from the mentors in the industry, says, "These days, textbooks are readily available in PDF format either on private or government websites. All you have to do is upload the PDF in gritparity.com and the tool analyses the textbook in three different ways. It shows the number of stories that have a majority of male characters, it shows careers that both genders are involved in and compares the number of images used in it." According to Ananya, a lot of girls who are talented are not able to achieve what they want due to a lack of confidence or because of the kind of prejudice they come across in society. She does not want to stop here as she believes that now it is time to make some changes to our textbook. "The first step towards changing this prejudice among students is to represent women in a better light and on par with men in textbooks. I am planning to work closely with the Government of Karnataka as well as the Education Minister to achieve this. I have a long way to go but there is no stopping me," she concludes.