Breaking Down Barriers for Women in Tech

Embracing gender equity in the technology industry

Each year, for International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of women around the world and recognize the progress made towards gender equity. The fight for gender equity, however, is not yet over. We must continue to imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination – a world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. 

One of the key themes of International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. Gender equity and equality are often used interchangeably, but they are different concepts with different implications: 

  • Equality refers to giving everyone the same opportunities and resources regardless of their starting point or background.  
  • Equity, on the other hand, means giving people what they need to have the same opportunities and resources as others, considering their unique circumstances and needs.  

The #EmbraceEquity campaign theme seeks to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. To truly create an inclusive and equitable world, we need to provide equitable action that acknowledges and values the differences that exist between people. 

Creating a greater balance in a technologically advanced world 

Women in leadership is deeply engrained in our history. Appen’s genesis in 1996 can be traced back to the vision of linguist Dr. Julie Vonwiller, whose goal was to leverage data-driven solutions for machine translations. In 2011, Appen merged with The Butler Hill Group, resulting in a partnership between two remarkable women leaders. Lisa Braden-Harder, who founded The Butler Hill Group in 1993, remained at the helm of Appen until 2015, cementing a legacy of women in leadership.  

Today, Appen continues to prioritize gender diversity at all levels of the company. In fact, 30% of the company’s executive team and 50% of the board of directors are women, which is a notable achievement in an industry that has historically struggled to promote diversity and inclusion. By fostering a culture of inclusion and equality, we are building a better workplace for our employees and creating better solutions for our clients. 

As technological advances transform our means of everyday life, equity is more important than ever. Data bias is a critical issue in artificial intelligence that has serious implications for equity and fairness in machine learning (ML) models. Data bias occurs when the data used to train an AI system is skewed towards certain groups or characteristics, leading to biased predictions and decisions. This can result in harmful outcomes, particularly for marginalized communities. By eliminating bias in data, we can ensure that AI applications like voice assistants, chatbots, and computer vision models provide equitable opportunities for all people. 

At Appen, we believe in technology that’s free from bias and work diligently to source, collect, and annotate data that is representative of diverse groups and does not perpetuate existing biases. We also apply an expert approach to ongoing monitoring and evaluation of AI systems to identify and mitigate any biases that may emerge over time. Only by using quality data can we create ML models that are fair, equitable, and beneficial for all. 

Beyond our product, we are an organization committed to providing equal opportunities to all our employees, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or any other factor. We understand that a diverse workforce leads to more innovation, better problem-solving, and stronger business outcomes. In honor of this celebration, we’d like to share what it means to #EmbraceEquity from some of our Appen women as leaders. 

Siba Al-Haimus: Empowering the next generation of women leaders 

Conversations around AI have taken center stage in the past few weeks, thanks to ChatGPT. It’s a great moment in history to seize all the good it can potentially offer, or is it? Like all things which have dependencies, AI is as good (or bad) as the data used to train it. 

Sourcing excellent quality data that is representative as well as free from bias is no small feat. This task calls for awareness; because you can’t solve for a problem you don’t see. It also calls for painstaking planning to make the data truly inclusive and equitable. I love that my role at Appen is giving me the opportunity to be part of this debate, and ultimately part of an equitable solution.  

Christina Golden: Breaking down barriers for women in marketing 

I have often heard people say that marketing is a field that is primarily dominated by women. However, I have experienced challenges related to gender, ethnicity, and age in this industry. One of my managers once “joked” about being in the minority on an almost all-women marketing team. I did not find it funny. It was also disheartening to see that the leadership team was predominantly led by men, making me feel like we, as women, were not in the majority. 

In past situations, I have felt unheard in meetings where male leadership only speaks directly to other men. But, I have also had managers who promoted my voice and helped make me seen. Through these experiences, I have learned to speak up loudly in group settings and make my voice heard. I believe it is essential to focus on those who support and uplift you as a woman, as it helps to break down barriers. 

I am hopeful for the future, especially as more and more women are becoming leaders and spokespeople in the technology industry. It gives me the courage to continue speaking out to break barriers. 

Rachel Kellam: The role of AI in promoting gender equity 

AI and Gender Equity – two of my favorite topics! When I think about how AI can be used to accelerate gender equity the first thing that comes to mind is that it isn’t just AI that advances gender equity, but the responsible, thoughtful use of AI. 

AI is an incredibly powerful tool that when built, monitored, and utilized responsibly, can help break down glass ceilings for women. Imagine a world where AI can help identify bias in job postings, or flagging pay disparities and promotion rates across an organization so that organizations can take corrective actions. Or maybe an AI-powered mentorship platform that connects women in the same industries and identifies the best set of mentors for the career trajectory that you want to set for yourself. 

As always, AI isn’t the only answer to gender equity – but it sure can help. I can’t wait to see what is next! 

Babette Miller: Why gender equity is crucial for women of color in senior leadership roles 

As a black woman who has worked in Corporate America for the last 30 years, I can’t write about gender equity without talking about gender equality.  

When I started my career in my early 20’s, I understood quickly that having a mentor was key to growing and advancing into Senior Leadership roles.  But what happens when there’s a very small percentage of women (let alone women of color) in these leadership roles?  When we don’t have mentors that look like us to coach, develop and advocate for us, we get left behind and advance at a much slower pace (if we advance at all). 

In this context, gender equity recognizes that while everyone may be exposed to the same company opportunities for advancement, women will always fall behind their male counterparts if there aren’t more women (and women of color) represented in Senior Leadership roles. 

Andrea Clayton: What can I do in my role to advance gender equity? 

In my role leading People for Appen, I not only have the pleasure but the responsibility to advance gender equity in so many ways. I want to use my voice to inspire others about the power of diversity to deliver better outcomes, better innovation, and ultimately better results. I have the ability in my role to design programs and practices that help deliver equitable opportunities at every stage of the employee experience.  

While it’s absolutely critical to have a clear voice about gender equity and to design programs and practices with gender equity in mind, it’s equally important I play a role in my day-to-day life of advancing gender equity through mentorship. I am 25 years into my career in leading People and Culture for companies. I had amazing women and men mentor me in my early years that believed in me and gave me balanced and inspiring feedback. These mentors championed me and placed a bet on me so many times. It is because of my early career mentors that I am where I am today. That In mind, it is so important that I pay it forward. I am proud to have mentored many strong and talented women and I feel that incredible sense of progress when I see their faces step into their first executive role. Someone paved the way for me, and it is a wonderful space to now be paving the way for others. It is important work for me to continue but also for everyone. Until we achieve gender equity at all levels of every company and in every country, we all have more work to do, together.  

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we’re proud to recognize and honor the countless contributions women have made to our world. We remain committed to providing opportunities for women to grow and succeed in their careers and to empower the next generation of women in leadership. We are grateful for the many talented and dedicated women who make up our team, and we’re grateful for their valuable contributions to our company’s mission and vision. 

International Women’s Day belongs to everyone, everywhere. Let’s use this day to raise awareness about discrimination, celebrate women’s achievements, and take action to drive gender parity. Inclusion means all IWD action is valid, and for International Women’s Day and beyond, let’s all fully #EmbraceEquity. 

Website for deploying AI with world class training data