This Executive Is Breaking New Ground for Women In AI

Hugging Face’s head of global policy brings a fresh outlook on AI – and she’s just getting started.

Leading women in the artificial intelligence community are on the rise in early 2024, and with good reason.

While ongoing talent shortages highlight the importance of savvy engineers, software code writers, and executives as AI rises, qualified women who can fill those spots just aren’t getting their due.

“Despite the surging demand for AI, at least one talent pool that could help businesses achieve their AI ambitions has remained largely untapped—women,” states Deloitte in a recent “Women in AI” white paper. “In 2020, women represented roughly 47%of the US labor force. Furthermore, in 2019, women received most graduate certificates, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees from US institutions.”

Yet only 26% of AI professional positions are comprised of women, according to a World Economic Forum report.

The good news? Most male and female AI and machine career professionals surveyed in the Deloitte report believe technologically savvy women can play a massive role in developing and managing artificial companies. That goes for the AI company making new applications and tools and those companies that buy and use those tools.

This from the Deloitte study.

— 71% of survey respondents say adding women to AI and machine learning “will bring unique perspectives to high tech that are needed in the industry.”

— 66% of AI and machine learning solutions benefit from “having more diverse employees in designer and developer positions.”

— 63% of AI and machine learning models would always produce biased results “as long as AI continues to be a male-dominated field.”

A “Particular Set of Skills”

Talk to a woman thriving in AI, and you’ll hear a lot about having more work to do in leveling the playing field.

“I’ve found, and am still finding, my people — from working with incredible company leadership who care deeply about the same issues that I prioritize to great research co-authors. With that kind of support, I can start every working session with a mini therapy session,” said Irene Solaiman, a former AI policy manager at Zoom and currently the head of global AI policy at Hugging Face, a New York City-based machine learning company in a Tech Crunch interview this week. “Affinity groups are hugely helpful in building community and sharing tips.”

Asked by Tech Crunch what advice she’d give younger women looking to break into the artificial intelligence field, Solaiman cut right to the point.

“Have a support group whose success is your success. In youth terms, I believe this is a “girl’s girl,” she said.

“The same women and allies I entered this field with are my favorite coffee dates and late-night panicked calls ahead of a deadline,” she added. “One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve read was from Arvind Narayan on the platform formerly known as Twitter, establishing the “Liam Neeson Principle” of not being the smartest of them all but having a particular set of skills.”

Solaiman also noted the AI field needs all the help it can get in safely creating, deploying, managing, and regulating the technology in the future.

“We’re constantly re-evaluating our methods for assessing and implementing safety techniques,” she said. “Both beneficial applications and potential harms constantly evolve and require iterative feedback.”

She also believes how technology companies, businesses, and public policy standard bearers improve AI safety should be collectively examined as a field. All of the above can partner up to make that happen using machine learning technologies.

“The most popular evaluations for AI models in 2024 are much more robust than those I was running in 2019,” Solaiman said. “Today, I’m much more bullish about technical evaluations than red-teaming.”

“I find human evaluations extremely useful, but as more evidence arises of the mental burden and disparate costs of human feedback, I’m increasingly bullish about standardizing evaluations.”

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