Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Questions from a Contraceptive Pill Junkie: Applying Human Psychometrics to Investigate Gender Bias in Machine Learning

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Version 2 2023-09-26, 01:37
Version 1 2021-12-09, 08:56
posted on 2021-12-09, 08:56 authored by Darney, Hazel

With the rapid uptake of machine learning artificial intelligence in our daily lives, we are beginning to realise the risks involved in implementing this technology in high-stakes decision making. This risk is due to machine learning decisions being based in human-curated datasets, meaning these decisions are not bias-free. Machine learning datasets put women at a disadvantage due to factors including (but not limited to) historical exclusion of women in data collection, research, and design; as well as the low participation of women in artificial intelligence fields. These factors mean that applications of machine learning may fail to treat the needs and experiences of women as equal to those of men.    Research into understanding gender biases in machine learning frequently occurs within the computer science field. This has frequently resulted in research where bias is inconsistently defined, and proposed techniques do not engage with relevant literature outside of the artificial intelligence field. This research proposes a novel, interdisciplinary approach to the measurement and validation of gender biases in machine learning. This approach translates methods of human-based gender bias measurement in psychology, forming a gender bias questionnaire for use on a machine rather than a human.   The final output system of this research as a proof of concept demonstrates the potential for a new approach to gender bias investigation. This system takes advantage of the qualitative nature of language to provide a new way of understanding gender data biases by outputting both quantitative and qualitative results. These results can then be meaningfully translated into their real-world implications.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Design Innovation

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Design Innovation

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design Innovation


White, Tom; Langelaar, Walter