Artificial intelligence has grown over the years with new technologies hitting the market such as smart assistants, drones and robots. AI is a male dominated industry and despite this, innovation is accelerating and the technology will become better in 2021 and beyond. However, there are concerns about women being left out as technology becomes mainstream and influences our lives. 

A study by McKinsey found that women account for less than 15% in AI research. These numbers indicate the wide gender gap¹ in AI, data science and machine learning specialties. There have been calls for women to do more as technology keeps changing every year including reskilling and upskilling. Tech companies from Google, Apple and Facebook are supporting women in technology by appointing them to lead major divisions.

Despite the gender inequity seen in the AI field, women are doing amazing things by shaping AI for humanity and participating in AI research². From breast cancer research, facial recognition and object detection, women are moving the needle in #AIresearch and deserve special recognition for their efforts. This should motivate other women from non-technical backgrounds to enter the data science filed.

The list of women in data science, AI and machine learning is long but in this article, allow me to explore some few names that caught my attention.

List of Women Voices in Artificial Intelligence 

1. Fei-Fei Li

The first woman on this list is Fei-Fei Li from Stanford University whose work in object detection for AI has been incredible given the accuracy levels achieved from her work. As a professor at Stanford, Fei-Fei Li is a woman whose research has created new opportunities in the AI field. Her work is ImageNet, which is heralded as the foundation of training datasets for AI.

The #bias in AI technology in object detection is a hot button issue that researchers have been mulling over for years. For example, the wrong identification of an object could cause harm or damage the reputation of others and the ImageNet work from Fei-Fei Li is addressing these challenges and helping improve accuracy of detection models³. Fei-Fei Li has led the way in AI research and with her current work at Stanford; she is teaching students how AI can make the world a better place.

2. Tempest Van Schaik

Tempest Van Schaik is the second woman on this list whose incredible work at Microsoft includes cloud AI projects and coding. She developed Fizzyo, which treats the Cystic Fibrosis condition among patients by using machine learning to make the treatment a better experience. As an ML engineer with experience in the field, Tempest Van Schaik is leading the female pack for women doing amazing things in AI and data science.

3. Regina Barzilay

Regina Barzilay is another woman doing amazing things in AI research with her current research about cancer detection bias by AI systems in female patients. The example that comes to mind is the Tyrer-Cuzick, which discriminated against black women in cancer detection. A fair AI system is critical for the good of humanity and most of her work revolves around fairness around AI technology.

Breast cancer is a health problem among most women and the work of Regina Barzilay has made it possible for researchers in AI to embrace open source and using different models to train data sets for fair detection of diseases such as breast cancer. She is a voice for female software researchers and motivates them through her good work in using AI to create a positive influence in the world.

4. Anna Anisin

The work of Anna Anisin in the data science field has shown that women can get involved in technology and use their leadership roles to influence the world positively. Anna Anisin is an advocate for good and fair technology that benefits humanity through her presence in tech conferences and writing articles on technology. Forbes recognized her influence in the #datascience field by selecting her as one of their contributors.

Anna Anisin understands the world of technology and the founding of illustrates her desire to get involved in technology and shape a good future for humanity. She understands the tech ecosystem and with her experience scaling start-ups, Anna Anisin is a female tech leader setting a good example for other women interested in data science and successful careers in technology. 

5. Cynthia Breazeal

When we talk about technology and human interaction, a good example that comes to mind is robotics. In 2021, #robots have become commonplace in our lives from supermarkets, hotels and homes where they assist us in undertaking automated tasks. Cynthia Breazeal is a leading proponent in social robotics and many in the industry see her as the pioneer of this field. She is the Chief Scientist at Jibo.

The book Designing Sociable Robots by Cynthia Breazeal explores human augmentation with technology and how people can use robots to optimize tasks and increase productivity. After reading this book, one of the themes is technology for good with her explanations of how to avoid the dark path of using robots to harm humanity. She believes that robots can assist humans to become better at their tasks without competition and following human values.

6. Deborah Raji

The justice approach used by a society is critical for harmony and peaceful co-existence among communities and Deborah Raji is one woman doing a good job here. As technology, adoption continues in the justice system, there have been concerns about discrimination, which could lead to detrimental consequences. Deborah Raji advocates for the use of AI for good⁸ of humanity by protecting the interests of every individual regardless of their race.

Deborah Raji has also advocated for fairness in using face tracking technology and questioning the errors shown by these systems. Her involvement in facial recognition advocacy in the United States has inspired more women to join the field of #technology and make their voices count in achieving a fair society.

The Time for Women in Technology is Now

I cannot exhaust the list of #women doing great things in technology and around data science, AI and machine learning. Some other female names influencing the tech industry include Fernanda Viégas, Katherine Gorman, Kate Crawford and Lucy Vasserman. 2021 is going to be an exciting year for women in data science and artificial intelligence with more optimism about their contributions in a post COVID world.

Companies led by women in technology continue to thrive with more women becoming start-up founders. Forbes is estimating more than 30% rise in female executive leadership in tech companies and leading the world in this age of digital transformation through fair and transparent technologies. Is this not amazing?

Works Cited

¹Gender Gap, ²AI research, ³Detection Models, ⁴Machine Learning, ⁵Open Source, ⁶Tech Ecosystem, ⁷Robots, ⁸AI for Good