WISE Conference 2019 – Our Skills: Our Future
Martin Luther King Jnr once said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle”. This is why the WISE Campaign will continue to encourage key players, role models, real models and organisations to spend more time and resources proffering solutions, conducting research, highlighting challenges, promoting diversity/inclusion, gathering statistics, creating awareness, empowering more women, and keeping the WISE vision alive.
It was a delight to read that a first time conference invitee wrote these amazing words, and I quote; “I haven’t yet recovered from the euphoria of this thought-provoking conference, it was a time to network with great minds and individuals” – hearing this from a company Managing Director that I invited to the conference this year, made me extremely proud to be associated with the WISE Campaign. This was his first time at the conference and first encounter with WISE – he left the event feeling energised, challenged and captivated to support WISE in achieving the target of 1 million women in STEM by end of 2020. It’s phenomenal to see that men are allies and are also interested in the WISE Campaign.
The 2019 WISE Conference was based on looking at how women are critical to addressing the future skills needed in the UK, particularly as the surge in technology, AI and robotics increases. Below I will briefly detail highlights from some of the superb guest speakers.
Lisa Finnegan – Senior Director of HR for LinkedIn, blew my mind with some intriguing data gathered from the LinkedIn platform. One of the first being very positive – there is an increase in women in STEM, however a gap in women taking up Artificial Intelligence (AI) roles, as 78% of those in this field are men. Lisa later concluded that AI transformation is increasing the value of human (soft) skills – so which human skills will you challenge yourself to improve on?
Let’s not forget that “Diversity is not just nice to have, it is a must” exclaimed Fiona McDonnell – Director of Consumer Retail, Amazon. Fiona led a discussion about how Amazon are boldly increasing the contribution of women to Science and Technological innovation through the Amazon Amplify Programme.
She also shared based on WISE Report 2019 that, ‘Just a 10% increase in female representation would generate £3bn for UK businesses’, I am sure after hearing that, business owners are now considering reviewing their job adverts to eliminate any unconscious bias in order to attract more women to apply. I find it quite interesting how quickly we can respond to change when it’s related to a financial benefit, however when it’s through unconscious bias training, diversity and inclusion conferences or employee resource groups some people struggle to understand the purpose and benefits these actually brings to their organisations.
Professor Gina Rippon – Cognitive Neuroimaging, Aston Brain Centre talked explicitly on the importance of the Gendered Brain, Gender Equality Paradox and mentioned some remarkable comments such as “your sex doesn’t dictate your brain type”.
Professor Aimee Van Wynsberghe displayed an image of a ‘vicious cycle’ in robotics as seen below – this was exceptionally thought-provoking as it clearly illustrated potential consequences of how a lack of women in STEM can lead to gendered robotics & AI innovations, which will disproportionately negatively impact women. Aimee left us thinking whether gender roles can be emphasised through AI if done in the wrong way.
Therefore I challenge you to think, would this be different if we had more females on the design teams when creating this technology, and more sitting on robot ethics boards, making decisions about our automated future? If we get the balance right, this would lead to a ‘virtuous cycle’ as seen below.
The WISE Conference 2019 was well-attended and all invited speakers delivered a superb and mind-blowing presentation/speech. Their in-depth knowledge, information and insight into the various areas covered were empowering, eye-opening, inspiring and impactful including the amazing panellists. The conference was concluded with an extraordinary word by the WISE CEO Helen Wollaston, who encouraged the audience to be bold in their pursuit of the WISE Campaign and become dedicated agents of change.
In conclusion, I leave you with two fundamental question, have you considered a career in AI for yourself?, and which human skills can you develop between now and the next WISE conference?