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XperienceAI '21: Women in AI: Overcoming adversities and breaking barriers in AI

13/08/2021


XperienceAI '21: Women in AI: Overcoming adversities and breaking barriers in AI


In a recent report published by Stanford University, Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2021, India was ranked 6th in The Global Vibrancy Ranking 2020. India tops the list in terms of Relative AI skills penetration rate by Gender 2015-20. Out of the 12 countries that were examined, India, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia are the closest to reaching equity in terms of the AI skills penetration rate of females and males.

Undoubtedly, AI is becoming a key technology in many sectors. The way we looked at this technology a decade back is no longer valid. The technology had advanced and is fine-tuning itself with each passing day. As has always been stressed, AI systems are as good as the data fed to them, or they work just how the creator of those systems intends them to.

That is the reason diversity, inclusion, transparency, fairness, and explainability have come to the forefront. Diversity in AI is of great importance as we want these systems to perform bias-free and give non-skewed results.

As aptly said by Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI & Machine Learning and Member of the Executive Committee World Economic Forum, “To be truly diverse you need to bring people into AI that think differently.”

The whole idea behind making these systems fair is the fact that they are already being deployed in important decision-making and hence can cause serious damage if they are biased, skewed, or unfair. Therefore, industry and academia are working towards diversity among AI researchers to ensure that in the future, the technology benefits people at large without any gender bias, racism, and unfairness.

In a recent report published by Stanford University, Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2021, India was ranked 6th in The Global Vibrancy Ranking 2020. India tops the list in terms of Relative AI skills penetration rate by Gender 2015-20. Out of the 12 countries that were examined, India, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia are the closest to reaching equity in terms of the AI skills penetration rate of females and males.

Having more women in managerial, leadership, and role model positions directly benefits an organization’s employees. However, a lot has to be done in the area as the popularity of AI-enabled decision-making is gaining unpredictable momentum. 

As rightly said by Dr. Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, “Women participation is not just about skilling, but providing role models and encouraging long term thinking in terms of career plans. Organizations like Microsoft, IBM and others have been helping women come back into a career. Those are good but we have to do more of these.” 

AI systems can work amazingly well with diversity across various aspects. This will ensure wide-ranging perspectives and experiences in the design and implementation of AI systems. A more diverse workforce is better equipped to identify and remove AI biases as they interpret data, test solutions, and make decisions. Specific to gender, women are likely to catch things men might miss (and vice versa). In this regard, gender diversity can benefit AI development.

As per the recent trends, the AI job market is expected to grow substantially in the next few years, thereby widening the opportunity for women to enter the realm of advanced technologies. While it is proven that the AI system suffers from gender bias, as evident from its end-product and solutions, it is high time that women should be welcomed in this field and create diverse participation to minimize such biases. 

India is making commendable progress in the field of AI and has also been focused on that the right strategy towards a more sturdy AI ecosystem for tomorrow would be to address the challenges right away. Each stage and step in building AI systems should take care of diversity and inclusion at the earliest.

India holds 4th position in the top countries for having the highest growth in AI hiring from 2016 to 2020. Despite the pandemic, the AI hiring continued to grow in 2020.

Dr. Gargi Dasgupta, Director - IBM Research India & CTO - IBM India and South Asia, believes, “We need more women participation in STEM, and this is not just about inclusion alone. We need to think of diversity in data too. Else, five years from now, we’re going to be reading studies that say AI has a definite gender bias.”

An effort in the direction is the NASSCOM’s Women in AI round table, held on 3rd August, where women leaders in the AI industry shared their thoughts, journey, and the way forward. The session was graced by the presence of Srikripa Srinivasan, VP at Dell Global Analytics, Manjiri Bakre, founder and CEO at OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, Leena Walavalkar is a Chief Innovation Evangelist, Business & Technology Services, TCS, Parul Pandey is a Data Scientist at H2O.ai and Sattwati Kundu is a Senior Data Scientist at IBM. These women are constantly working to design an AI ecosystem that is more inclusive, fair, diverse, and transparent.

Leena Walawalkar, Chief Innovation Evangelist, Business & Technology Services, TCS, in the session said “We humans have biases, both intentional and unintentional, however the key to make AI systems more fair and inclusive is to be aware of the bias being induced in our data and making a conscious effort to stop this bias from creeping into our algorithms.”

All the panelists shared their experiences and their outlook for diversity in AI. Ms. Manjari Bakre added that “We women look at the data in a very different way than men and that is really critical to create robust AI systems, which is the absolute goal for all of us right now.”

Equal opportunities for women is needed in AI more than any other area as otherwise the whole purpose of AI systems would fail as the output would be skewed or biased owing to the lack of diverse and unbiased input data. 

Ms. Parul Pandey shared a great observation she made in her career in AI so far; most young people specially girls and women in the field of AI and data science need more relatable role models, which would would boost their interest in STEM courses.

To do so, young minds should be encouraged to study STEM subjects and understand their use cases. This shall open the doors for opportunities to work in this field. The other way is to create interest by publicizing success stories of women in AI and learn from them along their journey in AI.

INDIAai’s 21 Women in ’21 is such an initiative that highlights the success of women in AI to instigate confidence and assurance among women to take that bold step without hesitance. On a global level, the recent report by Deloitte, Women in AI, can inspire many and create newer paths for aspiring girls and women around the world. 

We have surpassed the times where women had to prove their worth, now is the time to exhibit the immense potential and execute what was once doubted and was considered out of capability zones for women.

Author: Parul Saxena

Source: https://indiaai.gov.in/article/women-in-ai-overcoming-adversities-and-breaking-barriers-in-ai

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