Data is the new currency, and AI is the future of all work and business. The need to engage more women in the space and leverage their perspectives to steer clear of the risks of biased, incorrect decision-making is emerging as a critical business imperative in the field.

Interestingly, Stanford University’s recent 2021 Global AI Vibrancy Tool Report has placed India at the top in terms of gender inclusion parameters in the Artificial Intelligence(AI) ecosystem. In light of this, Accenture Vaahini, in association with Women’s Web, had organized an exclusive roundtable for women leaders in AI in May 2022.

Women in AI: Making time for conscious learning in a hyperdynamic space

What emerged from the dynamic panel of senior women leaders who spoke on the theme of 'Women in AI & Deep Tech: Making time for conscious learning in a hyperdynamic space' is of high value to emerging women professionals as well as those in leadership roles in this space.

Here are some key takeaways from this cohort of women leaders on what needs to be learnt and unlearned to stay future-ready and successful in AI.

Questions of responsible AI will become paramount

Data use, governance, and the larger role of compliance with regulations in streamlining AI from a policy and security perspective formed the crux of the conversation. With AI reaching a level of “human parity,” as Charumathy Srinivasan, Vice President of Engineering at Microsoft called it, adherence to concepts of responsible use of AI is becoming highly relevant, be it the need to address underserved communities, consent, or inclusion.

Leveraging AI for good is the future

Developing smart, sustainable and innovative AI practices and offerings will direct the future course of the field to a large extent. Deepika Sandeep, AI Leader at Honeywell, spoke on how her team is enabling AI-driven solutions for compliance with sustainability and indoor air quality in energy-efficient buildings.

Vaswati Ghosh, Managing Director, AI & Data Led Transformation Delivery Executive, Growth Markets, Accenture in India, articulated how Accenture leveraged AI to build and launch successful sustainable ESG solutions, highly relevant in these times that call for urgent focus on climate change and the planet at large.

Manisha Singh, Global Artificial Intelligence Ops & Bigdata analytics Leader at UBS, highlighted the need for adopting data-driven decision making over intuitive decision making for realizing energy-conscious AI solutions. This will require employee empowerment at all levels, along with adoption of Agile methodologies to propel decision making at scale,and keeping data and evidence transparent.

Future-back approach thinking is key

Charumathy underlined the significance of going beyond the conventional, linear way of thinking and adopting future-back thinking. “For the ongoing spurt in AI innovation to be meaningful and be able to amplify human ingenuity, one has to look ahead, and then look back to arrive at futuristic, functional solutions,” she said.

AI + Agile thinking to drive growth and adoption

Vaswati spoke about how AI and Deep learning combined with Agile thinking can power the accessibility to various trends that can project future market needs with great accuracy.

“Elimination of bias is key; to humanize the tech, Agile thinking and practices need to be scaled in AI at all levels. This implies a conscious shift in the thinking pattern as and when the situation requires it, to facilitate the design and development of responsive, responsible AI models,” she remarked.

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Critical thinking and high-level social cognizance will take AI forward

Manisha expounded on how learning can shape AI to simplify life for everyone, by enabling resilience and readiness to adapt new ways of working and living.

“In a market where automation and robotics is gaining edge, the important areas for developing future-ready skills will be critical thinking, empathy, ethics & governance, communication, and collaboration, in addition to digital fluency, algorithmic thinking, programming and advanced analytics,” she said.

The need to transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

Sharing thoughts on the pertinence of understanding what customers want, the learn-it-all mindset and organizational culture in designing AI-driven outcomes, Charumathy highlighted how the shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset can nudge the next-level evolution of AI, businesses and all stakeholders involved.

Importance of ‘culture shift’ to revamp AI-led operations

Manisha underscored that unlearning conventional practices of hierarchy-based work culture have become pertinent to AI, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic that nudged employees to step out and operate beyond their specific silos.

She endorsed a culture of experimentation to foster enthusiasm, innovation and growth as well as instilling a ‘culture of ethics’ in tandem with adoption of the Agile methodologies, process standardization, compliance with frameworks, and responsible use of data to bolster explainable AI adoption.

Mindfulness in regulating use of technology and infrastructure

Speaking on sustaining the current meaningful carbon footprint of AI, Deepika remarked how imperative it is to put responsibility over possibility and consciously regulate the use of technology and infrastructure that one has access to. “The focus should be on arriving at relevant solutions, and not on how it is done,” she said.

The prospect for more women in AI

Vaswati recounted how Accenture as an organization is driving the change by aiming to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025, and how the Accenture Vaahini initiative is driving more inclusion in the workplace.

Thanks to ample opportunities to upskill, re-learn and stay abreast of latest developments on the tech and compliance front, women working in Accenture’s AI domain are future-ready.

The panelists agreed upon how virtual courses and certifications offered by legitimate online learning platforms are changing the landscape by enabling more women aspirants to qualify for careers in data science and AI.

Deepika verbalized that women professionals should build critical leadership skills such as financial acumen and negotiation, and leverage broader forums such as the Lean In for overall, holistic growth.

At the end of a forthcoming and insightful discussion, the panelists agreed that AI and the hands building it should move forward with a conscious approach rooted in empathy and sustainability.

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