From education to employment

Raise Up: why we must celebrate women in AI

Women are heavily underrepresented in emerging professions and this is certainly true of the AI industry. And across all areas: recent estimates suggest that women make up just 22% of professionals in AI, authored less than 14% of AI papers and just 18% of leading AI conferences.  

That is why it is so important to celebrate the contribution of women to the technology industry, and particularly in particularly unrepresented areas like AI, on Ada Lovelace Day.  

I am not just an advocate for diverse workforces. I put my money where my mouth is. At Artificial Solutions, we are committed to improving diversity and equity throughout our organisation. We have achieved a ratio of 38% women in managerial positions. However, our target stands at achieving a 50/50 ratio at the earliest opportunity, and we continue to push for diversity at all levels, across departments and functions, by valuing equity, diversity, and integrity. 

But we cannot rely on the commitment of individual companies to close this gap. We need to come together as allies to look at this problem and identify what we can do to close the gap, which is why we have brought together a number of senior female leaders in AI from Artificial Solutions’ AI Allies network to share their perspectives for Ada Lovelace Day. 

Perceptions need to change to make change 

 Anne Jenkins, Senior Manager of Conversational AI at Valcon commented:

“Sadly, I still think there’s a lingering perception of tech – and AI & data science even more so – as a predominantly male profession and that perception can lead to women not making the educational and life choices that might bring them into the industry.”  

Daniela Colombo, Data & AI, IOT and App Innovation Tech Lead at Microsoft:

Yet, it is not as simple as encouraging more women to pursue a STEM education. The biggest challenge starts for women when they approach education. “STEM courses are not seen as a pathway to enter corporations for women, but more of a path for teaching/research,” Daniela highlighted.  

“We need to start cultivating dreams, providing girls in school with great examples of women driving the AI industry, explaining their path to them and how they became who they are. We need to establish models, someone they can aspire to be like.” 

Education needs to become more inclusive 

Gavriella Schuster, former Corporate Vice President for Microsoft and now Advisory Board Chairwoman at Artificial Solutions, believes that women still face several headwinds as they look to participate and innovate within the AI industry. She thinks that this is in part due to the way AI is taught within academia, which has failed to put forth use cases for AI that would appeal to women. Gavriella shared that “focusing on the collaboration, human interaction and social justice issues that would attract women, would bring more women to the profession.” 

Britta Guldmann, Conversational AI Specialist at Artificial Solutions, agreed stating that:

“The industry may also feel too ‘techy’ to many women who are not aware of all the soft skills that are also required to make the industry reach it’s potential.” 

Creating space for women to thrive 

The challenge persists in the workplace. Laura Krumina, VA Development Lead, Operational Excellence – Digital Customer Service Solutions at Circle K, thinks that a lot of women still aren’t taken seriously in this industry.

Laura said:

“It might not matter what their role is or what they have achieved, some people still have a hard time believing or understanding that women can be just as capable as men when running large technology projects. I have had to be headstrong when needed and I have learned how to voice my dissatisfaction when that has happened.” 

That is one reason why creating networks where women can come together to support and celebrate each other is so important. This is something that Sarah Rojewskij, Manager of AI & Automation at Telefónica Germany, has found. 

Sarah commented: 

“Personally, I think it’s important to join networks for women in AI not only to connect and exchange on the topic itself, but to support each other, to learn from each other’s experiences in the male dominated field, and lift ourselves up to be the authentic great creators that we are and can be,” Sarah advocated.  

Alice Boter, Conversation AI Designer, Financial Services at CGI, agreed:

“I think it’s nice to have a network where it’s okay to express your doubts and get confirmation on your abilities. Women are more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome. The funny thing is that we can convince others very well that many of those doubts are really unfounded. In a network with women you get more often fantastic, honest, constructive open discussions and we like to strengthen each other. I owe a lot to the help of, for example, Women in Conversational AI in the Netherlands. It is a very nice club where we share knowledge, but also help each other with advice and assistance. I have now become a board member as I would like to give something back to this beautiful community.” 

She that shouts the loudest 

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report from 2020 shows that women are, on average, heavily under-represented in most emerging professions, with the largest gap in those requiring disruptive technical skills, like cloud computing, engineering and AI. This not only means that there is a shortage of female professionals working in AI, but as a result there is a shortage of female role models.  

That is why it is so important for women to continue promoting their contribution to the AI industry. And why I believe bringing women together where we can support, celebrate and raise one another up is so important. We are more powerful together and that is exactly what we need as we continue our fight towards a future of true inclusivity and equity. 

By Marie Angselius-Schönbeck, Chief Impact Officer at Artificial Solutions

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