Women make up nearly 50 percent of the total global workforce but they only account for a third of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce.
Lack of women pursuing STEM fields in higher education is often cited as the reason why there are so few women on tech development teams and at industry conferences. This lack of diversity perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes and shows up as bias in AI models and systems. However, the media and tech industry’s hyper focus on addressing the STEM “pipeline gap” deflects attention and fails to address the insidious issue of the erasure of talented women.
The persistent exclusion of women and nonbinary people already working in this field not only hurts diversity efforts, but it also dilutes the AI discourse and hinders progress. The first “100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics” list was published in 2018 by Mia Shah-Dand to highlight the hidden figures doing the hard work of keeping humanity safe from the harms of AI. Since then, Women in AI Ethics (WAIE) has published this list every year to elevate new ethical voices and perspectives in AI.
Over the past 5 years, WAIE has hosted 30+ events with over 60 speakers from multidisciplinary backgrounds ranging from data privacy to human rights to widen the aperture of narrowly defined AI expertise. Through campaigns like “I am the future of AI’’ WAIE highlights how a multidisciplinary approach can shape AI development in ethical and sustainable ways.
The Covid-19 pandemic revealed a disturbing lack of support systems at educational institutions and companies to help women and marginalized communities during times of crisis. WAIE launched a mentoring program to support community members during this challenging time and it was inspiring to see women in our global community come together to lift each other up.
There is a great deal of power in solidarity. It is only with steadfast support and encouragement of our community that WAIE is able to successfully navigate the unprecedented challenges of our current times and continue to amplify the voices of women ensuring that AI is being responsibly developed for the benefit of all.