Meet the ladies making waves in AI ethics, analysis, and entrepreneurship

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Women in AI are making breakthroughs in research, starting exciting businesses, leading important ethical discussions, and inspiring the next generation of AI experts. That’s why we created the VentureBeat Women in AI Awards – to highlight the importance of their voices, their work and their experiences, and to shed light on some of these leaders.

We first announced the six winners in July at Transform 2021 and since then we’ve met each of them for deeper discussions about their work and new challenges in the field. Our conversations touched everything from regulation to handling messy real-world data to using AI more responsibly. The winners from around the world also shared with us on successful efforts and initiatives they have launched, from groups focused on increasing diversity in the field to a machine learning bootcamp that empowers workers.

Now we’re bringing all of these discussions into one place. Enjoy the summaries below and click through to read the full conversations.

Think AI technology, and Dr. Nuria Oliver probably worked on it decades ago when it still felt like science fiction.

Their research and inventions have sparked advances across the industry and are now driving many of the products and services we use every day. But while Oliver, the winner of our AI research award, has published more than 150 scientific papers and acquired 41 patents, she doesn’t believe in technological advancement for its own sake. Today she is primarily focused on responsible AI and “developing technology that is on our side, that really has our interests and well-being as its primary objective”.

Read the full interview with Oliver, a true pioneer in AI research, where she describes her impact on the technologies we use today, the need for responsible AI, and how she thinks we should redefine “progress”.

Briana Brownell did not enter this field to receive awards. She set out to develop an AI that would do the job for her – or at least that’s the joke she likes to tell.

Brownell, winner of VentureBeat’s Women in AI Entrepreneur Award, set out to build a company that combined her background in data analytics with AI. In 2015, she launched Pure Strategy, which uses an Automated Neural Intelligence Engine (ANIE) to help companies understand unstructured data. She and her team invented algorithms from the ground up to make this possible, and the system has been used, for example, by doctors to communicate with patients and each other across cultural knowledge. She also works as a science communicator, inspiring not just young children – especially girls – but everyone around them.

Read the full interview with Brownell where we discuss how to work with messy real world data, the importance of science communication, and how AI research and entrepreneurship can best come together.

DataRobot says it creates 2.5 million AI models per day, and Haniyeh Mahmoudian personally invests in making sure they are all built as ethically and responsibly as possible.

Mahmoudian, winner of the VentureBeats Women in AI Responsibility and Ethics Award, literally wrote the code for it. The astrophysicist became a data science researcher and DataRobot’s first “global AI ethicist”. In the last year of the crisis, Mahmoudian’s work found an even more relevant path. The U.S. government used its risk-tier modeling research to improve its COVID-19 prognosis, and Moderna used it for vaccine studies. Eric Hargan, then Assistant Secretary of the US Department of Health, said, “Dr. Mahmoudian’s work was instrumental in ensuring that the simulation was unbiased and fair in its predictions. ”He added that the impact statement her team created for the simulation“ broke new ground in public AI policy ”and as a model for legislation is seen.

Read the full interview with Mahmoudian where we look at their impact as well as AI regulation, ethics as a buzzword, and their advice on using responsible AI.

When you hear about AI ethics, it’s mostly about bias. But Noelle Silver is committed to an often overlooked part of the responsible AI equation: AI literacy.

After Silver, also winner of the VentureBeats Women in AI Responsibility and Ethics Award, was featured in one too many boardrooms seeing only the good in AI, that lack of knowledge and ability to ask the important questions began to be a danger to see. Now she’s consistently advocating the public’s understanding of AI, spending her days educating everyone from the C-suite to teenagers about how to better use AI. She has also launched several initiatives to support women and underrepresented communities.

Read the full interview with Silver where we talk about the inspiration behind their work, the misconceptions about responsible AI, and how companies can make sure AI ethics are more than just a box.

Arezou Soltani Panah has made significant strides using machine learning to tackle complex social problems and cleared away any ideas that AI is all about technology.

From loneliness to domestic violence to social stigma, Soltani Panah, winner of the VentureBeats Women in AI Rising Star Award, shows that the marriage between AI and social science is already established and evolving. She even developed new machine learning techniques specifically for this work. As an immigrant from Iran to Australia, Soltani Panah’s work focuses on social inequality and disempowerment. And it is cross-disciplinary in every way and often requires collaboration with government advisors and subject matter experts such as social scientists.

Read the full interview with Soltani Panah where we discuss how social sciences and AI come together, her favorite projects and future hopes for AI.

Nobody has received more VentureBeat AI Award nominations this year than Katia Walsh, a testament to her longstanding efforts to educate women in AI and data science around the world.

For example, Inna Saboshchuk, a current colleague of Walsh at Levi Strauss & Co, said: “A single conversation with her will show you how much she cares about the people around her, especially young professionals in AI.” In particular, nominators highlighted the efforts of Walsh, winner of VentureBeat’s AI Mentorship Award, to educate team members. She recently started a machine learning boot camp that enabled people with no prior knowledge not only to learn the skills, but to apply them every day in their current roles.

Read the full interview with Walsh here, where she talks about the early success of her latest bootcamp, the power of daily mentoring, and the role it can play in humanizing AI.

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