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Interview with Women in AI North America Honorary Chair, Dr. Gloria Washington



Dr. Gloria Washington's work in the AI space sets new standards. She is Assistant Professor at Howard University and Director of the effective Biometrics lab that has conducted ground breaking research on how one can identify people based on their physical and behavioural characteristics that focuses on social cultural social technical of identifying people that takes into account the cultural aspects of a person, and how community influences in individual's ways of how they do things and study marginalised AI. She asks the big questions and derives change through her myriad of published work as a scholar. She has been pivotal in creating the vision for WAI Awards NA and supports Women in AI NA as the Honorary Chair.


Find out what she has to say!



1. We are grateful to have you as the Honorary Chair for Women in AI Awards NA. What is your vision for a global community like Women in AI for North America?


In my research I am constantly reminded of people that can and want to use AI to change their lives though automation. They want AI to help their communities and thereby improve their quality of life. However, along the same line, these persons are often unintentionally harmed or discriminated against due to AI that forgets or neglects to study what will happen if this AI we create automates without regard to the humans it impacts. It's very necessary to have all stakeholders weigh in on automation choices even if that means scraping a technique that could make millions or billions of dollars. My vision as Honorary Chair for Women in AI is to create a global community of women AI researchers that never forget about the human-centered approach to exploring AI advances.

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?


During early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice initiatives that were sweeping the United States, I saw the field of AI open up to more women.; almost overnight. Maybe looking at it from my position in Washington, DC I was always shown the innovators of AI to be men. However, the face of AI innovators and change makers that I see now in my mind is Timnet Gebru, a black woman with a strong opinion that everyone respects. I see her colleague as well, Alex Hanna that went through the fire with her in getting their reputations besmudged by a huge tech company that everyone wants to work for. If you look at the company that they now run together, DAIR, it's all women! Diverse women of all backgrounds with a focus on humans and helping them. AI is just the means to how they're helping. I see a future for women in AI like the organizational leadership of DAIR that includes Black women, white women, LatinX women, Trans women, etc. all just trying to help people through AI and not hurt them.

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?

Sometimes good people doing good work never hear thank you or that their work is valid. Hence, the Timnet Gebru situation. It took that for the world to now thank her for the work that she is doing. The benefit in honoring women in AI with the WAI Awards is that there are plenty of women that want to work in AI, however their ideas and things that they want to pursue are not amplified or they are discouraged as not possessing the right education or going to the right school. The WAI Awards will recognize women of all paths with unique stories that are just waiting to be told. It's time we start telling those stories.


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

I am committed to learning from all humans and figuring out how I can help. I'm not afraid to explore AI techniques that people tell me may make others uncomfortable. I'm currently exploring micro-aggressions and AI for a tool that will offer suggestions for more empathetic and less micro-aggressive language in email and written communications. I work with a lot of Black women at Howard University that are performing AI. They don't get the credit because they are environmental researchers, psychologists, African American history researchers, or social scientists. I plan on helping to open the door to tell those stories be told, more loudly. I envision myself working in AI for a long time to come.


We’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Gloria Washington for her initiatives, work and diligence!


Call to Action


If you would like to take Dr. Gloria Washington'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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