Susanne Tedrick
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Working on AI Together
diversity, inclusion, women in tech

Working on AI Together

Trust. Bias. Safety. Ethics. Inclusion. Sex robots. These and many, many more topics came up during my wonderful panel discussion on “Leadership in AI” at the IEEE Women in Engineering AI Leadership Summit, held at Nokia Chicago/Naperville on September 20.

The all-day, sold-out event, sought to provide a forum for women (and men) to explore together the many ways artificial intelligence impacts industry, academia, law, economics, human relationships, and society, and how we can use this knowledge to propel movement in the AI field – in a manner that is fair and equitable for everyone. The Summit had speakers from diverse backgrounds, industries, and companies.

IEEE Women in Engineering is one of the largest international professional organizations dedicated to promoting women engineers and scientists, and inspiring girls around the world to follow their academic interests in a career in engineering. They hold a number of leadership summits throughout the world annually.

I had the distinct privilege and honor to be on the panel with Dr. Bimba Rao, Director of Engineering – Ultrasound Division of Siemens Healthineers, Dr. Katina Michael, editor of IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society, and Maria Rios, CEO of Nation Waste, the first female Hispanic-owned waste removal company in the United States.

During our delightful and wide-ranging, one hour discussion – moderated by event co-chair and my mentor, Liang Downey – we touched on:

  • the critical need to stimulate interest in AI education and AI careers in young girls (like the initiatives undertaken by AI4All), which will address the lack of women in AI professions and potential biases being programmed into AI systems;
  • the need for women to be visible and to leadership positions/positions of authority in developing AI systems and projects;
  • understanding AI’s potential impact on human empathy, physical human interaction and how we relate to one another;
  • the potential for algorithmic bias to inflict further harm on historically marginalized communities for critical needs, like housing, employment, and financial services;
  • where the responsibility lies in curtailing the unintended consequences that come with AI (Is it industry? Our governments? The public?);
  • whether there is a difference between public and private data when developing AI systems; and specifically, how do you manage both the need and desire for innovation, yet, keep sensitive data secure?

On a side note, I also had the distinct pleasure of working on the Summit’s planning committee for the past seven months, and I was pleased from the praise received by attendees for both the quality and the diversity of the session content, and for fostering a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their technical background or understanding of AI. In addition, the event was recognized and entered into the Congressional Record by Congressman Bill Foster of the 11th District of Illinois and Chairman of the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence.

IEEE Women In Engineering AI Leadership Summit - Illinois Congressional Record.

I couldn’t be prouder to have participated in such a great and important conference, and it was truly an honor to have a seat amongst some of the best (and amazing) women leaders in technology.