On March 8 every year, International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements, and that – of course – includes women in AI.
The tech industry and the AI sector face an ongoing and constant diversity and equality crisis. In a study from the AI Now Institute at New York University, the issue’s breadth is clear.
There is a diversity crisis in the AI sector across gender and race. Recent studies found only 18% of authors at leading AI conferences are women, and more than 80% of AI professors are men. This disparity is extreme in the AI industry: Women comprise only 15% of AI research staff at Facebook and 10% at Google. There is no public data on trans workers or other gender minorities. For black workers, the picture is even worse. For example, only 2.5% of Google’s workforce is black, while Facebook and Microsoft are each at 4%. Given decades of concern and investment to redress this imbalance, the current state of the field is alarming.
While there are systemic reasons for this – starting at an educational level – we can redress the balance by highlighting female role models in AI that the next generation can look up to and be inspired by.
So on March 8, we celebrate and focus on eight leading women in AI whose work in the field is inspiring and moving the entire sector forward.
Mia Shah-Dand, CEO at Lighthouse3 and Founder at Women in AI Ethics
Mia Shah-Dand is the CEO of Lighthouse3, a research, and advisory firm based in Oakland, California. Mia advises large organizations on responsible innovation at scale with new & emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI).
She brings together diverse groups of stakeholders to build human-centric programs at the intersection of data, technology, and governance. Mia is the founder of the Women in AI Ethics initiative, dedicated to the recognition, recruitment, and empowerment of talented women in this space. She created the first 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics list in 2018, which is now published annually, and built the Women in AI Ethics online directory, a resource to help conference organizers and recruiters find diverse talent.
Mia is on the board of the United Nations Association – San Francisco chapter and the Social Impact ABIE Awards Selection Committee at Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology.
She also hosts monthly events and Twitter chats to raise awareness about ethical issues in AI and highlight the work of BIPOC experts in this space and spoke at Data Natives Unlimited 2020 on the crisis of ethics and diversity in AI.
Timnit Gebru is a computer scientist who works on algorithmic bias and data mining. She is an advocate for diversity in technology and co-founder of Black in AI, a community of black researchers working in artificial intelligence.
Timnit was most recently a Research Scientist in the Ethical AI team at Google and finished her postdoc in the Fairness Accountability Transparency and Ethics (FATE) group at Microsoft Research, New York. On the evening of December 2, 2020, Gebru announced via Twitter that the company had forced her out after highlighting the risks of large language models, which are key to Google’s business.
Before that, she was a Ph.D. student in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, studying computer vision. Her main research interest is in data mining large-scale, publicly available images to gain sociological insight and working on computer vision problems that arise as a result, including scalable annotation of images, fine-grained image recognition, and domain adaptation. As a cofounder of the group Black in AI, she works to increase diversity in the field and reduce the negative impacts of racial bias in training data used for human-centric machine learning models.
Jana Eggers, CEO at Nara Logics
Jana Eggers is CEO of Nara Logics, a neuroscience-based artificial intelligence company focused on turning big data into smart actions. Whether starting and growing companies or leading large organizations within big companies, Jana focuses on understanding the customer needs and creating technology products that customers love and drive business growth. Her software and technology experience comes from technology and executive positions at Intuit (NASDAQ INTU), Blackbaud (NASDAQ BLKB), Lycos, American Airline’s Sabre, and CEO of Spreadshirt. She received her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science at Hendrix College, followed by the graduate school at RPI and supercomputing research at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her career has taken her from 3-person business beginnings to 50,000-person enterprises.
Valerie Becaert, Director of Research and Scientific Programs at Element AI
Before Element AI, Valerie Becaert was the director of partnerships at the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO), which brings together more than 900 scientists to extract economic and societal value from data. She holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Polytechnique Montréal in environmental modelization. Her career began as a researcher in life cycle analysis, a powerful tool employed to evaluate human activities’ potential impact on the environment. Valerie is convinced that our ability to generate, analyze and value big data will change the world and that prosperity and sustainability go hand in hand.
Adelyn Zhou, CMO at Chainlink Labs
Adelyn Zhou is CMO at Chainlink Labs and a bestselling author passionate about the intersection of marketing, automation, and the future of work. She has worked with some of the world’s top companies and fastest-growing startups on growth, blockchain applications, and applied artificial intelligence. She is recognized as a top influencer by Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., Wired, Hubspot, and many others. She started her career at the Boston Consulting Group and later led growth efforts at Amazon, Nextdoor, and Eventbrite. She is an internationally recognized speaker at conferences such as SXSW, CES, Inbound, and DLD. She is also an advisor to companies in the SignalFire portfolio, concentrating on growth and marketing initiatives.
Catalina Herrera, Senior Data Scientist at TIBCO
Catalina Herrera completed her MSEE in Advanced Electronic Engineering at Texas University, going on to begin her career as Product Engineer at Texas Instruments. In her career, Catalina has been exposed to state-of-the-art technology solutions across multiple industry verticals, becoming a product evangelist, pre-sales engineer, customer education leader, and data scientist in the SaaS industry. With educational and technical roles to her name, Catalina now works full-time as a Senior Data Scientist at TIBCO, a cloud service provider.
Amy Daali, Founder and CEO at Lucea AI
Having completed her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Amy Daali transitioned between research and engineering positions before moving into a data scientist role at USAA in 2017. Since then, Amy became founder and CEO of Lucea AI, organized the Women in Machine Learning and Data Science collective of San Antonio, and acted as chair for the IEEE Engineering Medicine and Biology Society. Using her experience in Predictive analysis, applied Mathematics, Machine Learning, and Engineering, Amy aims to make healthcare more human, empowering healthcare providers and organizations to make better life-changing decisions through AI.
Terah Lyons, Founding Executive Director at The Partnership on AI
Terah Lyons has been a Technology Policy Fellow at the Mozilla Foundation and was formerly a member of the Board of Directors at the Harvard Alumni Association. Lyons is currently the Founding Executive Director at The Partnership on AI, an organization that aims to establish the best practices on AI technologies and serve as an open platform to discuss AI and its influence on people and society. She previously served as Policy Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. While serving as Policy Advisor, Terah led a policy portfolio in the Obama Administration White House focused on emergent technology related to Machine Intelligence, including Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and more.
Dataconomy celebrates these inspiring women in AI, and thanks them for the work they are all doing to advance the field and share their knowledge and experience with others.