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WiCipedia: The AI Diversity Struggle, Companies Aren't Prioritizing Equality & New-Mom Decisions

Eryn Leavens
3/29/2019
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This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Hopperx1 brings the ladies of tech together once again; IBM tackles gender inequality and bias in AI; new moms have big decisions to make when it comes to taking time off work; and more.

  • The ladies behind the annual Grace Hopper Celebration are back at it again with their yearly Hopperx1 conference in Seattle, GeekWire reports. This year's conference focused on diversifying tech, and brought together 1,500 women in technology to discuss the best ways to achieve this goal, along with more technical workshop options. Event organizer AnitaB.org intends the field to consist of 50% women by 2025. "You deserve to be in any room. We deserve to be here," Brenda Darden Wilkerson, AnitaB.org's president and CEO, told the audience. "Same pay [as men]. Same roles. Same project leadership. Same c-suite titles. Same founder and funding opportunities." (See WiCipedia: Grace Hopper Promotes Diversity, Girl Scouts Code & How to Thrive and Mentor Monday: Anita Borg's Elizabeth Ames.)

    A Seat on the Stage
    Microsoft's Kiki Tsagkaraki (left), Redfin CTO Bridget Frey (center)  and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Laura Butler (right) at the Hopperx1 Seattle conference.
(Source: GeekWire)
    Microsoft's Kiki Tsagkaraki (left), Redfin CTO Bridget Frey (center) and Microsoft Corporate Vice President Laura Butler (right) at the Hopperx1 Seattle conference.
    (Source: GeekWire)

  • When your work focuses on diversity, it can seem most individuals and companies are working towards the same goal: With new programs and initiatives being introduced every week, it sometimes feels like we're inundated with attempts at equality. Yet that's not so, according to an article on Computer Weekly, which says nearly half of women who work in tech don't feel their company prioritizes diversity. The other half said employers were making a valiant effort at diversifying -- but there was more to be done. Many reported they had a difficult time starting out in the industry because of the lack of diversity in their chosen field, and most believed increasing equality in tech would "help contribute to innovation through sharing different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences to those already making up a majority of technology roles." (See WiCipedia: Companies With Values Should Be the Norm.)

  • We've talked before about why the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) industries need female employees to create a future that we all actually want to live in, and as these fields advance and remain mostly dominated by men, this need is only augmented. An article in University World News took a hard look at how gender diversity impacts the growth of AI, and how without it, only a segment of the population will be represented. With only 22% of global AI workers identifying as female, the industry has a long way to go to reach equality -- or even adequate representation. Yet there is hope for the few women who join the AI struggle. Anna Veronika Dorogush, head of machine learning systems for Russian Internet company Yandex, explained: "It is a good area for women. Maybe because it's a sector where a lot of people are very well educated and where there are fewer stereotypes. It is very black and white." Russia leads the equality struggle with 40% female researchers versus the global standard of nearly 29%. (See WiCipedia: AI for Social Good & a Fitbit Fail for Women and WiCipedia: Lack of Diversity Creates Blind Spots & Twitch Leads by Example.)

  • One company taking the diversification of AI seriously is IBM. With its new Watson OpenScale for AI program, IBM is taking a hard look at unconscious bias and fairness in the future of technology. Silicon Angle examined the company's work and research into diversity, including its recent Women, Leadership, and the Priority Paradox report, which found that while under 20% of companies had women placed in leadership roles, those same companies found higher performance outcomes because of gender diversity. When it comes to the future of tech and AI, Inhi Cho Suh, general manager of IBM Watson customer engagement, said, "You want the full population of the human capacity to think and creatively solve some of the world's biggest complex problems. You don't want a small population of the world trying to do this." (See IBM Debuts Tools to Make AI More Fair.)

  • It seems everyone has an opinion about whether new moms should take time off to spend with their children or head straight back to work to climb the corporate ladder. While there are now "returnships" and programs aplenty for those moms returning to work, especially in tech, few will disagree that taking time off could mean a hit to your long-term paycheck. Yet this article in Forbes takes a stance that we here at Women in Comms wholeheartedly agree with: There is no wrong choice. With a helpful checklist addressing both the career cons and the family pros, the author goes to show that work isn't everything, and that no one life path is right for everyone. (See WiCipedia: LL Awards, Tech Mom Returnships & How The Post Gets the Ladies.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

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