Olay joins Algorithmic Justice League to fight racial bias in beauty AI

The P&G-owned brand has teamed up with Joy Buolamwini’s non-profit and Black Girls CODE to #DecodetheBias during National Coding Week

Procter & Gamble’s Olay is partnering with Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) to launch a #DecodetheBias campaign during the US’ National Coding Week, which runs from 14-20 September.

With computer science – like so many STEM fields – lacking diversity, the coders who create the algorithms we use are building technology that reflects themselves, which is reinforcing an exclusionary standard of beauty.

From social media filters and apps to search engines, these algorithms are often leaving women of colour excluded.

As part of its #FacetheSTEMGap movement – whereby Olay is committed to helping double the number of women in STEM and triple the number of WOC in STEM – the beauty brand will work with AJL and its founder Joy Buolamwini on three main elements.

They will help raise awareness about coded bias in the beauty industry, highlighting how data, computer code and AI reinforce narrow beauty standards that exclude women of colour via a campaign featuring a national (US) TV spot and targeted print campaign, which includes Buolamwini, the star of recent Netflix documentary Coded Bias.

Additionally, Olay is sending more than 1,000 girls to code camp to inspire them to pursue STEM careers in collaboration with Black Girls CODE’s 2022 summer camps programme.

Participants will get to explore everything from robotics to game design via iOS app development, with the end result hopefully being to encourage more WOC to enter the field.

Finally, the brand is pledging to #DecodetheBias in its own organisation, specifically via its Olay Skin Advisor, a web-based tool that uses a selfie to provide a skin analysis and recommend products.

AJL’s audit partner ORCAA (which stands for O’Neil Risk Consulting & Algorithmic Auditing) assessed the Olay Skin Advisor AI and identified issues of bias, while Buolamwini worked with Olay to recommend steps for remediation.

Buolamwini commented: “This campaign tackles two issues – coded bias as it manifests in the exclusionary representation in beauty imagery and the need to created more equitable opportunities for young girls of colour, especially in the fields of STEM.

“I remember being a little girl and being teased for my dark skin and being told I was not the standard of beauty, so to have the opportunity to be a face that young girls can relate to is incredible. And I am proud to work with a brand like Olay that is taking real action to empower the next generation of girls.”

Olay’s Vice President, Stephanie Headley, added that Olay “remains committed to equality and inclusion”, noting: “By diversifying who codes we are creating a new future that is more digitally representative of all.”

Meanwhile, Kimberly Bryant, founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, said the company was “thrilled to partner with Olay who is introducing more girls and young women of colour to computer programming and technology as part of their broader STEM goals”.

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