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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Facial recognition tech's heyday is over

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: New resources for women of color in tech; facial recognition software gets put on hold; the "pipeline" excuse is getting old; and more.

  • The protests about racial injustice these past few weeks aren't just putting pressure on national and local governments to change; companies are also feeling the heat to make ethical business decisions. Forbes reports that Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are three of the latest to reexamine their own technologies via the lens of racism. Facial recognition software has been in use more and more in recent years, though there are documented inequalities in the way the space-age tech views people of different races. While IBM announced that it will discontinue all movement on its facial recognition software, Amazon declared that it will take a one-year break from offering its facial "Rekognition" technology to police departments. Lastly, Microsoft has put its project on hold until further legislation is issued. Considering the technology routinely misidentifies people of color (including frequently mislabeling women of color as men) yet is increasingly being used by police officers to research cases and make arrests, this seems like a good step toward a more just system. (See WiCipedia: New Networking Rules, Canada's Pay Gap & Investing in Female Founders.)

    Facial recognition software may do more harm than good
    (Source: Pixabay)
    (Source: Pixabay)

  • Looking to add another title to your growing list of books to both unlearn racism and fight quarantine boredom? Check out Women of Color in Tech: A Blueprint for Inspiring and Mentoring the Next Generation of Technology Innovators by Susanne Tedrick, a writer and cloud technology specialist at IBM. SiliconAngle describes the book as a framework for women of color to find their way through the often unwelcoming industry filled with "subtle biases that stop them from entering the tech workforce." The book provides step-by-step actions for women of color to take when looking for a job and trying to keep a job, including understanding the options available to you, tips for negotiating, understanding unconscious bias and microaggressions and more. (See WiCipedia: Healthtech lacks diversity, just like the rest of tech.)

  • A new weekly newsletter is out specifically for Brown and Black women in tech, and it couldn't come at a better time. The Hustle explained that Vera Baker, a program manager for Viva Tech – a Paris-based tech conference – started compiling a roundup newsletter of all the tech news of the week for women of color. You can sign up to receive the weekly newsletter here. Additionally, Architect Magazine reported that BIPOC Studios has been created to make "a living, Google Doc spreadsheet listing architecture, engineering and planning firms founded and owned by professionals who are Black, indigenous, and people of color." The list aims to be a resource for people of color to locate jobs in architecture and is a great blueprint of what all industries could do to help people of color find jobs with companies that are searching for break-the-white-dude mold, talented candidates. (See WiCipedia: Black female founders take on VC discrimination.)

  • There's no question that more people of color are needed in high-up positions in order to create change. In an article in Business Insider, Sarah Lacy, CEO and founder of Chairman Mom, does a deep dive into why Black Americans are locked out of "wealth creation" and why this must change – particularly for Black women who make up 0% (no, we didn't drop a number!) of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. As Lacy puts it, tech's whole schtick is making the impossible possible, so the excuse that they aren't able to find qualified candidates who are also people of color simply doesn't fly: "Laws? Those can be changed. Consumer behavior? Oh, we can actually change it pretty easily if we give them something good enough with the right marketing. Colonizing Mars? Why not! Laws of gravity? What are those, again? Autonomous vehicles? Oh, that's how we'll all get around in five years... But finding a Black woman to hire? Oh, that's just too hard. You see, the pipeline..." (See WiCipedia: Fake it till you make it – the confidence edition.)

  • Pride month always brings a lens of inclusivity to the conversation (unless your healthcare rights are being rolled back...). With the Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ+ candidates and employees from discrimination at work, many people will be able to breathe a little easier when applying for jobs or facing harassment from co-workers (since the ruling doesn't mean that's going anywhere). If you'd like some tips for making trans applicants and employees in particular feel welcome in the workplace, check out this podcast from NPR's Life Kit about how to be a trans ally at work. (See WiCipedia: Open Office Fishbowls & Trans Women in Tech.)

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

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