What do women leaders in AI have in common?

If there were ever a time for an AI heroine, it’s now. According to a recent UNESCO report, men make up as many as 88% of AI researchers, compared to a roughly even split of men and women in ¬the world. Given the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our lives, we desperately need more women involved in shaping how it works.

Fortunately, this distress signal is not going unanswered; the call for women leaders in AI echoes around the globe.

On June 11, 2019 IBM announced its inaugural IBM Women Leaders in AI initiative to recognize women leaders, across diverse industries worldwide, who are advancing their companies’ use of AI to solve challenging business problems. From their industries and areas of expertise to the communities they call home, there may seem to be little that links these remarkable women, but in reality, they have a lot in common. Like any noteworthy superhero they’re fueled with a passion to seize opportunities, embrace change and focus relentlessly on serving others.

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Seize opportunities
Women leaders in AI share a deep understanding of their respective markets – an expertise that powers their ability to confront and solve problems across industries.

Keiko Konno, General Manager of the Service Planning & Development Division at Bridge International Japan, learned how best to fuse the hemispheres of IT and business strategy, which proved critical to seizing new opportunities with AI. Business data—often sprawled, disorganized and underutilized—is a major bottleneck to AI outcomes. Konno saw an angle of entry to automate the huge amount of in-house data Bridge International accumulates to serve the business. “We wanted to create a sales force with a human touch by combining AI technology with strong data maximization and human thinking. We felt combining these forces would create the strongest tool to support the business,” Konno says.

Women leaders in AI are adept at capitalizing on opportunity, and in the modern era, these often emerge as data opportunities. Data is the lifeblood of AI, and effective AI hinges on making data simple, accessible and secure.

Embrace change
Women leaders in AI understand that building an AI for the modern world means moving past old paradigms and strategies to create or discover new ones. This includes rethinking the kind of talent and skillsets needed to drive AI initiatives. According to Severine Marquay, AI Experience Digital Support & Innovation Leader at Orange France, it’s a misconception to think that AI should be reserved for data scientists or IT professionals.

Marquay advises to turn this way of thinking on its head, and views technical expertise as only one facet to building effective AI. When it comes to building teams, “choose open-minded people who are willing to challenge themselves, learn and take quick decisions in agile ways,” says Marquay.

Erin Oles, Senior Director of R+F Virtual Live at Rodan + Fields, works to include marginalized voices on her teams, explaining that this commitment requires being intentional.

“You must be intentional in your efforts to include everybody who's at the table. Make sure you're hiring a diverse workplace, you're listening to their opinions, and you're incorporating them into what you're doing. None of it will happen by accident,” says Oles.

Women leaders in AI embrace change, especially as it relates to including a broad spectrum of skillsets and perspectives when using advanced technology like AI to achieve business goals.

Relentlessly focus on the customer
Above all, these leaders are relentlessly focused on their customers every step of the way. Customer-centricity informs every goal, choice and priority – and above all, trust and transparency are paramount.

According to Kelly Combs, a Director of the Emerging Technology Risk practice at KPMG LLP, users will only adopt AI if they trust in it. “In order to get stakeholders' and business users' buy in—and ultimately build a system that your customers can trust—you need to be able to have explainability and transparency into how the system is working,” says Combs.

In equal measure, Sara Hines, Director of Provider Experience & Connectivity at Humana, says using AI to engage with customers without revealing the nature of that engagement is disingenuous and can harm the customer experience. “We will never try to introduce AI as though you're talking to a human,” says Hines.

Women leaders in AI put the customer experience first by elevating trust. Understanding that AI adopters may be skeptical of AI systems and processes, these pioneers intentionally build in trust and transparency to help address those concerns and build greater customer confidence and loyalty.

Turbocharge your journey to AI with today’s superpowers
Data, talent and trust are the key elements to succeeding with AI in your business. To put AI to work for you, emulate the AI leadership powers of these heroines: Seize the opportunity, embrace change and focus anew on your customer. Join these leaders and partner with IBM on your journey to AI. Get started today.

Interested in more stories of women in AI?
View the 2019 list

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