Free AI webinars launched for women - and men

By Sarah Burnett, Chair of BCSWomen, Vice President of Research at Everest Group and one of Computer Weekly’s top 50 influential women in IT

In March, I am launching our brand new AI Accelerator for BCS Women in association with BCS AI Special Interest Group (SIG). Based on broadcasts, panel sessions and social media discussions, about Artificial Intelligence (AI), its prime purpose is to make AI more relevant to women and encourage more females into computing. It is free - and open to men as well. However, at BCSWomen, we have recently published our latest Scorecard showing just 17% of people working in IT are women. Depressing, to put it mildly and especially considering all the initiatives that are going on to improve gender equality in this sector?

I hope women will sign up in their droves to the AI Accelerator and see just what opportunities there are.

There are two reasons behind the need for BCSWomen’s AI Accelerator. We have a skills crisis in this country in all tech and engineering jobs but particularly in IT. I was delighted to see WISE extending an initiative to encourage more girls between 11 and 14 years old to look at science, technology and engineering (STEM) careers - but it will be another five to ten years before these girls start working in our industry.

In the meantime, AI is advancing at great pace bringing with it new opportunities as well as risk of automation of jobs at scale. We need to encourage women (and men) to gain skills around AI, understand the job opportunities and then move into these careers. AI typically needs to be trained and we need male and female AI developers, designers and trainers for it to get real life perspectives on what it has to do, be it in business or consumer markets.  

In October last year, Oxford University published a report predicting 850,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2030 due to automation. That’s just 13 years away and it is already starting. But these will be traditional jobs, such as admin clerks working in housing and services, call centres and finance processing. We need the public to wake up to the rapid changes that are about to hit us - but also understand where the future job opportunities are for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

There is a real opportunity in all this for women, an in particular for good causes e.g. helping the environment, caring for others and bringing expertise within the reach of the masses, making a difference to the world. AI offers possibilities for all of this and we need a wide variety of personality types to ensure it is developed for the greater good.

AI needs a lot of data to work well. The use of business and personal data for analysis and AI decision-making for some can be a sticky issue. AI companies will have to win the trust of their customers when it comes to handling their data. In this regard, the UK with its fantastic global brand for fairness, democracy and freedom could lead. As AI grows apace, the world’s buyers are going to need to know who is behind their AI software and have they got integrity? The reputation of the UK as a great place to do business is an enormous asset and we should be exploiting this, especially as Brexit will open up increased international trade. But we can’t do this if we don’t have the skills. The markets are there - it is the skills holding back our growth.

The other reason for launching AI Accelerator is that even if people don’t become developers, we need more bosses and managers who understand how AI is progressing and the implications for their business - both in terms of opportunities to exploit and risks to minimise. Very few of our business leaders have any interest in or knowledge of technology. Could women help to change this?

I am grateful to the two prestigious industry figures joining me for the launch broadcast on March 30 at 1pm GMT. Andrew Anderson, CEO of Celaton who will look at how AI is being applied; and Dr Hannah Dee of Aberystwyth University who will talk about the science of AI.

AI is transforming our world. It is being used in many different ways already, including personal assistances, business processes such as invoice processing and customer complaints handling as well as fighting crime, to name but a few applications of the technology.

If you want to understand our world of the future, learn new skills in AI or understand the impact for your business, tune in or sign in to these free AI masterclasses. Your country needs you - and you need us!

Check BCSWomen and BCS AI SIG for details of our very first free AI Accelerator broadcast on March 30 at 1 pm.

Comments (1)

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  • 1
    Arvind Sathi wrote on 24th Feb 2017

    Great idea. My wife Neena and I have been working in AI over the last 35 years and have material to share. Please let us know if you would like us to present.

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Supporting the government’s ‘Digital by Default’ strategy we’re keen everyone has the skills and confidence to use IT. Here, we share thoughts on a variety of digital matters.

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