Today, I am more than proud to celebrate the fact that our ‘Girls in AI’ Hackathons/ ‘Alice Envisions the Future’ volunteer program is becoming a formal Microsoft brand — meaning it will be executed by our 150+ subsidiaries around the world in a systematic manner. This global, programmatic approach should help Microsoft and our ecosystem increase the (terrifying) female diversity ratio of 12% in AI/ ML space. I am delighted to see that our vision, our dream to inspire more girls, females, and minorities to join AI/ ML sector is coming true.
What brought us here since my Reflections on a Rigorous Year in AI is an inspiring global team of volunteers from Microsoft, our partners, and customers hosted three ‘Girls in AI’ hackathons in the U.S. starting from March 2019. These events enabled approximately 180 girls to create 23 (very impressive) AI projects. Several awards such as WACL Future Leader Award 2019, Women in Tech 2019 Diversity Role Model shortlist, and 2019 TechWomen100 Champion Award have fueled us with even more energy, enthusiasm, and courage to push hard and to expand these efforts globally. My favourite video from our NYC Hackathon captures the essence, the team spirit, and emotional charge of these events:
Throughout 2019, these hackathons were complemented globally with numerous ‘AI & You’ and ‘AI & Careers’ speeches at high schools and AI bootcamps at universities. We have all — individually and as a team — been determined to make every bit of positive impact and improvement in this space.
While the disconcerting diversity challenge in AI/ ML continues to pose risks in terms of non-inclusive product development, data bias, and job automation; we are adamant to change this situation and are not shy to dream big. For example, why not aim for 50/50 gender diversity in AI/ ML by 2030?
To this end, we cannot wait for our last event of 2019 in Bucharest, Romania during Dec 14–15th:
Microsoft Education on LinkedIn: Alice envisions the future Girls in AI Hackathon Bucharest, 2019
120 Romanian high school girls will soon embark on a journey to use AI for good, at Alice envisions the future, Girls…
I strongly believe the solution to many of our challenges — Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Human Rights & Democracy — lies at the intersection of education, technology, and collective, inclusive hands-on experiences such as hackathons and bootcamps. Scaling and formalizing ‘Girls in AI’ Hackathons through Microsoft have been a gigantic step forward to making a tangible positive change and impact in this space. I will always be grateful to Microsoft for believing, allowing, and enabling our team of volunteers to realize our dream in 2019. And, of course, I cannot possibly list and sufficiently thank the countless supporters, contributors, mentors, volunteers, speakers, and helpers who went way out of their way to make these happen — by travelling across continents, finding budget from most serendipitous and unusual sources, and obtaining celebrity speakers we could not even have comprehended of inviting when we first started off.
On a personal level, I could not be more excited about 2020. I will continue to work hard on our mission to expand our horizons and impact. I have recently taken on the Non-Executive Director (NED) role at Creative Education Trust which is a successfully growing multi-academy trust, overseeing management of 17 high schools and education of 13,500 children in the U.K. I look forward to getting to know the U.K. education system better and offering creative, practical insights into how IT and AI can be used to improve the learning and teaching experience at these schools.
I wish all of you a happy, healthy, inclusive, and impactful 2020. Onwards and upwards!