Announcing the ‘100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics’ list for 2023
“We don’t know any qualified women.” This is the most common excuse from event organizers and tech hiring managers when questioned about the glaring lack of diversity in their speaker line-ups and on their teams.
Every time we start compiling the ‘100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics’ list, it triggers serious introspection on my part about the need for yet another list. When I published the first list in 2018, I had not envisioned it as an ongoing project. For one, lists are challenging to put together, they are susceptible to self-selection bias, and they are outdated as soon as they are announced. However, the constant onslaught of problematic AI technologies and appalling lack of diversity in the tech industry signaled a critical need to continue boosting the talented women working hard to keep humanity safe from technological harms.
I often receive requests for speaker recommendations and many ask for introductions to the same handful of well-known names. Many are genuinely unaware of other talented women toiling away in obscurity while some are enamored by their celebrity-like status rather than any genuine interest in the cause of diversity or ethics. The list has helped disperse some of the attention and empowered lesser-known voices to break through tech industry’s cult of personality. We take the utmost care not to contribute to the tech echo chamber and select 100 new voices for recognition through the list, which is now published every year with the help of a wonderful selection committee. We also added a free online directory so we can keep supporting and amplifying the growing community of diverse AI ethics experts.
It’s widely known that the tech industry has a diversity problem as over 60 percent of the tech workforce is white and nearly 70 percent is male. The list intentionally elevates experts from different races and ethnicities with nearly 30 percent of this year’s list represented by Black, Indigenous, and other women of color (WOC). One third are over 40 years old, which is an important reminder that we need to address the the blatant ageism in this space. We are also making slow but steady progress on other dimensions as ten percent of the list self-identify as LGBT+ and same for disabled.
As much as technologists like to claim otherwise, AI ethics is not just a technical problem that can be solved with bug bounties and more testing. There is increasing evidence that structural and systemic harms show up directly in AI systems. To address the root of these issues, the list promotes an interdisciplinary approach, which includes experts working on the environmental impact of AI technologies, human rights impact, data privacy, as well as governance of automated AI decision-making systems.
The barriers to entry into the male-dominated AI/tech space are steep with emphasis on technical credentials. As part of its comprehensive approach, the WAIE list by design includes multidisciplinary expertise as it’s critical for identifying the full impact of ethical technologies. The list for 2023, like others in the past, includes lawyers, human right activists, anthropologists, researchers, and many other professionals from diverse backgrounds.
That all said, a list by itself can’t solve the diversity and inclusion problem plaguing the tech industry. It requires active participation and engagement from the folks in charge. Unfortunately, the slew of recent tech layoffs are projected to further hurt the groups that are already underrepresented in tech. Many companies are also scaling back their DEI pledges and investments.
In conclusion, lists aren’t perfect but they are a powerful catalyst to inspire change in an industry known more for innovation than inclusion. It’s only by using all the tools at our disposal to elevate underrepresented voices that we can harness the full potential of powerful new technologies and protect ourselves against their harms.