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Interview with Women in AI Canada Honorary Chair, Dr. Yoshua Bengio

Dr. Yoshua Bengio is recognized worldwide as one of the leading experts in artificial intelligence, he is most known for his pioneering work in deep learning, earning him the 2018 A.M. Turing Award, “the Nobel Prize of Computing,” with Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun.

He is a Full Professor at Université de Montréal, and the Founder and Scientific Director of Mila – Quebec AI Institute. He co-directs the CIFAR Learning in Machines & Brains program as Senior Fellow and acts as Scientific Director of IVADO.

In 2019, he was awarded the prestigious Killam Prize and in 2021, became the second most cited computer scientist in the world. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of London and Canada, Knight of the Legion of Honor of France and Officer of the Order of Canada.

Concerned about the social impact of AI and the objective that AI benefits all, he actively contributed to the Montreal Declaration for the Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence. His contribution to the WAI community and taking the lead as the Canadian Honorary Chair continues to remain an inspiration for experts, students as well as the budding young professional that look up to his internationally acclaimed work. Today, he augments his support in the interview by highlighting the importance of women’s contributions as AI pioneers and the need for recognizing their growing contributions even as the WAI Awards North America approaches on May 13, 2022.

1. What initially sparked your interest in becoming the Honorary Chair for Women in AI Canada? What is your vision and mission for a global community like Women in AI for North America?

AI and machine learning could offer transformative solutions to problems common to society today, but the sustained underrepresentation of women and minority groups hinders scientific advances in the field. In Canada, only about 15% of AI researchers are women. We still have much work to do to mitigate this imbalance, but WAI is already ahead of the curve with initiatives that create equal opportunities for women in AI across academia and industry.

2. How have you seen the role of women in AI evolve in your vast career and what future do you see at the rate at which women pioneers emerge into the AI/ML space?

The needle unfortunately does not move very much in terms of raw numbers of women in AI/ML, from what I gather. However, what I see that makes me hopeful is the attention given by leaders in the field (males and females) to this question, and that is having an impact on many elements such as recruitment (e.g., of faculty, postdocs, grad students) and the visibility of women researchers in the field (e.g., in panels, in program committees, workshop organization, etc.).

3. What is the benefit of honoring women with the WAI Awards? How do you think this will inspire more women to pursue a career in AI and the community overall?

The technologies the AI community is developing will affect a large proportion of the world’s population, so we need our research teams to be more inclusive and diverse to avoid the potentially negative social consequences of AI systems. It’s important to reward female excellence in the field and to encourage the participation of women in AI education, innovation, and research. I hope we can expand their global efforts in North America as we all have a scientific responsibility to develop tools and technologies that are socially beneficial and inclusive.

4. What contribution and support can we expect for the future of women in AI from you?

I am a firm believer in providing equal access to research and learning opportunities. The responsible development of AI is at the heart of my work, and I am committed to pursuing these efforts and collaborative projects with women and minority groups to set an example for my colleagues in the field.

We’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Yoshua Bengio for his initiatives, work and diligence!

Call to Action

If you would like to take Dr. Yoshua Bengio's words into action tune in on May 13, 2022 and register for WAI Awards North America 2022 as we celebrate women AI innovators and hear from champions of technology from Canada, Mexico and the United States talking about ways we can come together to build a more inclusive AI industry.

Let’s cheer them on as we expand our WAI community!


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