Women in Artificial Intelligence: An Important Event in Montréal

published on 11 13 2018
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Montréal has established itself as one of the world’s hubs for Artificial Intelligence (AI). Tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook have research labs located in Montréal. The motivation to set up shop in the French-Canadian is correlated to a few key factors. For starters, Montréal is an ideal blend of creativity and affordability. But another reason is the incredible leadership. Yoshua Bengio, for instance, is based in Montréal and is considered one of the foremost thinkers in a subfield known as artificial neural networks and deep learning.

As a city, we’re thrilled to be part of technological progress. Artificial Intelligence presents the opportunity for some incredible technological and social advances. It could help us lead healthier, more connected lives.

But despite the amazing offerings of AI, there’s growing concern in the field, one that stretches far beyond the city of Montréal.

Under-representation

Companies and governments are increasingly depending on AI because of its potential for computers to make decisions and take action. Computers can be quicker and cheaper than humans.

However, here’s the concern: limited diversity in the AI sector increases the chance that AI systems will have harmful effects on the world. Incidentally, the sector of Artificial Intelligence is even less inclusive than the broader tech industry, which has its own well-known diversity problems.

One of the vastly underrepresented demographics is that of women.

Recently, WIRED Magazine published an article entitled, AI Is the Future—But Where Are the Women? The California-based magazine partnered with Montréal startup Element AI, and together they were able to assess the diversity of leading machine learning researchers. The results were unsurprising yet still jarring: only 12 percent were women.

Yet women are among the most vulnerable to the changes that Artificial Intelligence is bringing. According to the World Economic Forum, women are at greater risk to lose jobs to automation.  Females represent 73% of cashiers, for example, and 97% of cashiers are forecasted to lose their jobs to automation.

The situation is not all doom and gloom. New leaders in the field are emerging—and succeeding.

A Montrealer Changing the Game

Narjès Boufaden is the Founder and CEO of Keatext, a Montréal-based startup that synthesizes large volumes of feedback data from multiple channels to produce actionable insights. She completed her PhD in Computational Linguistics here at the Université de Montréal, but now works with international clients such as American Express, NASA and Bombardier Recreational Products.

“The AI ecosystem in Montréal has been booming for the past few years,” Boufaden states. Success is defined by the problem that we solve for the customers. And this doesn’t have a gender. But being one of a few women who is known, who leads an IT company — this helps with visibility.”

Boufaden believes that we need to collectively remove the unconscious bias that is often associated with women in IT.

“We have to hire fairly,” she explains, “and we have to understand that the skills and abilities to contribute to the success of a company cannot be captured by a single profile of anyone. The will to contribute does not have sex, colour or religion. I think it's about appreciating the strengths of people, even if they manifest themselves in different ways.”

Join RE•WORK to Support Women in AI in Montreal

In December, a special event in Montréal will bring together many of the top names in Artificial Intelligence. Part of a global series, the Women in AI Dinner is an evening to connect with leading experts in the field.

The dinner is open to all genders, and is an opportunity to hear the latest insights, technology advancements and real-world uses from leading females across various AI realms. Attendees will learn from global pioneers and industry experts, while networking with company CEOs, data scientists, engineers and researchers—essentially, women who are disrupting their industries with AI.

Organized by RE•WORK (a global events company in AI and deep learning), the event will feature a champagne reception and three-course dinner.

Tickets are currently still available.

Cheat Sheet

Event: Women in AI Dinner
Date: 4 December 2018
Venue: TBA
Website: re-work.co/events

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