#IamthefutureofAI: Cristina Martinez

In our exclusive interview with Cristina, we delve into her AI career journey, exploring the pivotal moments that led her to her current role as a visionary leader in the field. We discuss the daily challenges she encounters as she navigates the intersection of policy and technology, uncovering her insights on the evolving landscape of AI governance and its impact on society. Furthermore, Cristina shares invaluable tips and advice for aspiring AI enthusiasts, particularly those hailing from non-traditional backgrounds, offering guidance on how to break barriers and forge a path toward a successful AI career.

This interview is part of Women in AI Ethics (WAIE)’s “I am the future of AI” campaign launched with support from the Ford Foundation and Omidyar Network to showcase multidisciplinary talent in this space by featuring career journeys and work of women as well as non-binary folks from diverse backgrounds building the future of AI. By raising awareness about the different pathways into AI and making it more accessible, this campaign aspires to inspire participation from historically underrepresented groups for a more equitable and ethical tech future.

Can you share an incident that inspired you to join this space?

It is more of a collection of experiences as a tech policy entrepreneur where:

a) I am the only woman seating at the table;

b) because of my background in social sciences, I often have to validate why I have a seat at the table.

How did you land your current role?

I became a tech policy entrepreneur and female founder back in 2019 while I was pregnant with my first daughter. Having led C Minds AI for Good Lab between 2018–20 and after years of consultancy experience for international organizations, I launched the PIT Policy Lab both to advance the public interest technology field of practice in Latin America as well as to train the next generation of tech policy practitioners, as a talent platform. I am really proud of our accomplishments with only years of operations!

What kind of issues in AI do you tackle in your day-to-day work?

These past two years we have been working on developing a gender stream. We have two exciting projects: 1) In collaboration with the Feminist AI Network, Northeastern AI Civic Lab, and Puentech Lab, we are working on the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in crowd work (e.g. women completing data labeling tasks) in Latin America; 2) financed by USAID, we are part of a Consortium of organizations conformed by ITAD, Athena Infonomics, and Women in Digital Transformation working with the government of Guanajuato in Mexico to detect and mitigate gender bias in an AI-based early alert system to identify students at risk of dropping out of school. We created an ethical guide and checklist, conducted training on gender, ethics, and data, and held three knowledge exchange sessions: a) with other cities in Mexico, b) with other countries in Latin America, and c) with India.

If you have a non-traditional or non-technical background, what barriers did you encounter and how did you overcome them?

I have a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and a master’s in Public Policy with a focus on technology, so working in the tech sector as a young woman with a background in social sciences has been challenging. I’ve worked on overcoming these challenges by studying thoroughly the themes I address and by having technical partners that lead technical components. Also by being unapologetic and firm in knowing what are my core skills.

Why is more diversity — gender, race, orientation, socio-economic background, other — in the AI ethics space important?

Diversity matters because representation matters. Perspectives, worries, contexts, and needs from the Global South need to be incorporated in debates about current AI developments, as to acknowledge that technology is not neutral and algorithmic bias can have severe impacts on people’s lives.

What is your advice to those from non-traditional backgrounds who want to do meaningful work in this space on how to overcome barriers like tech bro culture, lack of ethical funding/opportunities, etc.?

There are emerging groups like the AI & Equality Online community (https://community.aiequalitytoolbox.com/home), USAID’s Equitable AI Community of Practice, or the Feminist AI Network that are precisely looking to address these barriers. Join any of these initiatives!

Cristina is the Founder and CEO of the PIT Policy Lab. She has worked as a Digital Development Consultant at the World Bank, led C Minds’ AI for Good Lab, and co-founded Mexico’s National AI Coalition IA2030Mx. She holds a Master in Public Policy from Georgetown University and a B.A. in International Relations from the Tec de Monterrey. She is an alumna of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Shapers community, a Fellow at The Day One Project Technology Policy Accelerator, and the youngest member sitting at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation Board of Advisors.