As part of our partnership with RoboInsights, we have invited Mia Dand to speak at the RoboInsights 2022 event. For a lead-in to her presentation on September 23, Mia has agreed to let us interview her about her work to close the gender & diversity gap in the tech industry.
Dear Mia, thank you for agreeing to the interview. Could you introduce yourself?
I am the CEO of Lighthouse3, a consulting firm based in California that helps large organizations adopt and deploy new technologies responsibly. I am also the founder of Women in AI Ethics, a global non-profit with a mission to make the AI/tech industry more diverse, inclusive, and ethical. For over a decade, I have led hundreds of cross-functional projects within large organizations like Google, HP, eBay, and others; organized tech (educational) events with AI/tech experts, and hosted workshops as part of my effort to raise awareness about and democratize access to new and emerging technologies.
What will you talk about at the AI & Robotics event?
Prejudicial notions about who is an “expert” have led to a critical diversity gap in the tech industry. These biases lead to flawed technology solutions and worsening gender and socio-economic inequities. In my talk, I will share some harmful stereotypes and tropes pervasive in the tech industry. I want to inspire the audience to reimagine and rebuild the tech industry as a diverse and inclusive space without techno-elite gatekeepers.
Why do you put so much effort into your work?
I am passionate about my work because of the barriers I faced in the male-dominated tech industry as a woman of color, an immigrant from a non-privileged background, and the first person in my family to get a Master’s degree. The Tech industry dismisses the value of diverse lived experiences in developing human-centric solutions and devalues multi-disciplinary perspectives in technology development. I want to reduce the barriers to this space and open new opportunities and career pathways so that more historically underrepresented can get a chance to be part of the AI revolution.
What I love the most about my work is that it has inspired many women who find the tech industry daunting, and our events provide a safe space for many in the male-dominated space that is often hostile to women.
What would better recognition of women in AI mean?
Women in AI/tech industry are constantly overlooked, and their work is erased or attributed to men because of societal biases that hold up men as the standard and as the de facto experts. When I published the first “100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics” list in 2018, people were surprised to see many in this space working hard not on hyping AI but on saving humanity from the dark side of AI. Women in this field were appreciative as this was the first time that someone had taken the time to acknowledge their contributions to this field.
This list is published every year, and we also have an online directory (https://womeninaiethics.org/directory/ ) to make it easier to find diverse talent.
What are the key challenges brought on by the lack of diversity in tech, especially AI?
Every AI/tech failure, whether flawed image recognition systems, biased hiring systems, or racist predictive models, can be traced back to a lack of diversity in the AI design and development teams. Homogenous teams of engineers from a handful of universities and tech companies are much more susceptible to ethical blindspots, which can be avoided by including more diverse multi-disciplinary perspectives from the start of any AI/tech project rather than as an afterthought.
Every AI/tech failure, whether flawed image recognition systems, biased hiring systems, or racist predictive models, can be traced back to a lack of diversity in the AI design and development teams.
What are human-centric solutions in AI? (Why are they important?)
Technologies are not neutral. They reflect the priorities and biases of those who build them. Human-centric solutions center on the needs of people over that of corporate profits. Any technology built purely to maximize revenue will invariably harm those it impacts. Given the pervasiveness and ubiquitous nature of AI technologies, the scale of potential harm is massive and
How can we make the importance of responsible tech more pertinent for politicians? And maybe the general public?
There is a good deal of hype in the AI space, and tech companies and tech-funded researchers control the popular narratives. The tech industry is notoriously homogenous, and its motto -“Move fast, break things” and a singular focus on profits has been harmful to historically marginalized communities such as women, people of color, and others.
We need more objective resources for politicians and people on the benefits and potential harms of AI so we can develop meaningful solutions to prevent these abuses. I curate a weekly AI & Emerging Tech Ethics newsletter (https://lighthouse3.com/newsletter), which summarizes the latest AI developments in an easy-to-understand format. We need more AI resources in clear, jargon-free language so the average person and politicians can understand the real-world implications of the new technologies being developed.
What do you see as the biggest challenges in the near future for the development of AI?
The biggest challenge for us in the future will be how to balance responsible development & deployment of AI with profitability goals and political agendas during times of economic and political strife.
What do you hope to get out of taking part in the conference and visiting the Nordics?
My goal is to create partnerships with organizations in the Nordics to build AI education and literacy programs designed to:
1) help regular (including technical and non-technical) people understand how they can protect themselves as well as their communities from the harms and hype of AI (and other emerging technologies).
2) help them understand the benefits of AI and find new career pathways that leverage their unique multi-disciplinary backgrounds and lived experiences.
Thank you for taking part! We look forward to hearing more at the event.