This is the time of year when I get reflective, taking stock of the last 12 months while looking ahead to the coming year. To say it's been a tough year is an understatement! Yet, there are have been bright spots. One group that's been a shining light for me in 2020 is the Women in AI Ethics (WAIE) community. I'm incredibly grateful to have found this amazing group of women.
WAIE is a unique organization on a number of levels. There are many organizations aimed at supporting women, but few that promote the level of diversity I've found at WAIE. This organization lives it's values of inclusion and "diversity first" by ensuring that BIPOC women, those who identify as women and women with disabilities are centered. As someone who regularly navigates many white spaces in my daily work, academic and social circles as the only non-white or non-white female, spending time in this community is so refreshing!
I also love how WAIE lives it's values from a funding perspective. The gatherings it hosts are not typical conferences with ties to corporate sponsorship. Instead, they are unique spaces where important messages can be shared in ways that are not beholden to a corporate agenda. This is also refreshing especially in light of the outsized influence that "Big Tech" is having on setting the AI ethics agenda. WAIE recently received not for profit status in the US as a 501(c) (3) as a sponsored project of the Social Good Fund, so it can now accept donations. Prior to this, founder, Mia Shah-Dand, was funding the organization with her own resources. She started the organization in 2018 with a list that celebrates women working in AI ethics. WAIE is now a growing global community who gather at events throughout the year to learn from each other, through a one on one mentorship program and in online spaces. The 2021 list was unveiled in early December at the 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics summit, along with a new Hall of Fame list of AI ethics pioneers.
I can't say enough good things about WAIE, the many volunteers, leadership collective, 100 Brilliant Women, Hall of Famers and everyone who attends their events. These women give me HOPE that we can build a better future.