International Women's Day: Celebrating Leading Minds in AI

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Today is International Women’s Day, and we’re celebrating by highlighting some of the leading ladies in AI, machine learning and deep learning who have spoken at RE•WORK Summits and dinners over the past 12 months. Whilst the technology industry is seeing more and more women in top roles, the gender imbalance is still clear. At RE•WORK, we’re passionate about encouraging women and girls into STEM and are proud to host our series of dinners and our Podcast celebrating women in AI.

Earlier this year we hosted the AI Assistants Summit in San Francisco, where 50% of our speakers were women. This was a fantastic showcase of diversity, and we are striving to have more and more female experts presenting at our Summits.

We’ve been lucky enough to have over 200 women present at our events over the last year, and here’s a snapshot of the incredible work they’re currently doing.


Name: Irina Higgins
Role: Senior Research Scientist
Company: DeepMind
Event: Deep Learning Summit, London & Women in Machine Intelligence Dinner, London

At DeepMind, Irina is currently working in the Neuroscience team where she is working to bring together insights from the fields of machine learning and neuroscience to advance artificial intelligence. Previously when working on her undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at Westminster University she won an award for her achievements before moving to Oxford Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence, where she focused on understanding the computational principles underlying speech processing in the auditory brain. Irina has also worked on developing poker AI, applying machine learning in the finance sector, and working on speech recognition at Google Research.

Name: Daphne Koller
Role: Chief Computer Officer
Company: Prev Calico Labs
Event: Deep Learning Summit, San Francisco

One of the founders of Coursera, a MacArthur fellowship recipient, and one of the first women working in deep learning, Daphne’s main areas of interest are representation, inference, learning, and decision making, computer vision and computational biology. At the Deep Learning Summit earlier this year, Daphne shared her experience of being a woman in the industry and shared that ‘At Coursera I was introduced into a CO of another company and I said it’s really nice to be connected, my assistant James will be in touch to arrange the meeting, and the response I got was ‘Dear Daphne, please can you give me James’ availability for the meeting’ - they just assumed I was his assistant!’ She gave the advice that if we see discrimination happening to female colleagues,  don’t just let it slide, but stand up to it. Just last week, Daphne announced that she'd be moving on from Calico labs to persue other professional opportunities, so we'll be keeping tuned in for her next steps.

Name: Raquel Urtasun
Role: Head of Uber ATG
Company: Uber
Event: Deep Learning Summit, Montreal

‘Self-driving technology has the potential to fundamentally change the way we live in a very positive way. I find this truly inspiring.’

As well as heading up Uber ATG, Raquel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, a Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning and Computer Vision and a co-founder of the Vector Institute for AI. Raquel’s research interests include machine learning, computer vision, robotics and remote sensing. Having a woman at the helm of making Uber’s self driving cars smarter is a great representation of strong female role models for aspiring AI professionals to look up to.

Name: Melody Guan
Role: PhD Candidate, Stanford University
Company: Prev Google Brain
Event: Machine Intelligence Summit, San Francisco

After receiving an M.A in statistics from Harvard (graduating at top of her class), Melody started her work as a Resident at Google Brain working on deep learning and reinforcement learning. Melody’s presentation at the RE•WORK summit focused on modeling individual labelers to improve classification. She is now continuing to study, and is currently working on a PhD in Computer Science at Stanford. Melody is an avid writer and has published in The Huffington Post, Harvard Political Review, and The Harvard Crimson.

Name: Vicki Cheung
Role: Engineering Manager
Company: Lyft
Event: Deep Learning Summit, San Francisco

Since joining us in San Francisco, Vicki has progressed from the Head of Infrastructure at OpenAI to Engineering Manager at Lyft. At OpenAI, Vicki was the first engineer and designed and scaled the cloud/colo systems, optimised their Kubernetes cluster with a custom autoscaler and was responsible for their migration from AWS to Azure, amongst more. Vicki shared her expertise in building infrastructure for deep learning at the deep learning summit, and is now applying her expertise to the engineering team at Lyft.

Name: Doina Precup
Role: Associate Professor
Company: McGill University & DeepMind
Event: Deep Learning Summit, Montreal

DeepMind, made famous for its AlphaGo program, has recently opened a research lab in Montreal, headed up by Doina. A pioneer in reinforcement learning, Doina holds a Canada Research Chair, Tier I in Machine Learning at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and she currently co-directs the Reasoning and Learning Lab in the School of Computer Science. Doina was educated at a computer science high school in Romania. The school had a 50/50 boy girl split and there was no discrepancy - Doina’s grandmother was a maths teacher, her mother was a professor at the university teaching computer science, so she didn’t see a gender gap until moving out of Romania. She explained that when she reached the U.S, ‘the proportion of girls was quite shocking...I’m still trying to work out what drives this.’ Doina spoke further about her work at DeepMind and McGill on the Women in AI Podcast.

Name: Muyinatu Bell
Role: Assistant Professor
Company: John Hopkins University
Event: Deep Learning in Healthcare Summit, Boston

Having completed over 8 years research, her experience is mainly in imaging, signal analysis, robotics and mechanics, optics, and physics for multiple medical applications including cancer detection and treatment monitoring. Most recently, Muyinatu is currently working on the implementation of machine learning to improve photoacoustic-guided surgery. She designs medical imaging systems that link light, sound and robotics to produce clearer pictures and has been named as an ‘inventor’ who is ’building the stuff of the future’ by MIT Technology Review.  Throughout her career, she has published over 39 publications and presented at over 20 international conferences.

Name: Ira Kemelmacher
Role: Research Scientist
Company: Facebook (Dreambit)
Event: Deep Learning Summit, Montreal

Earlier last year, Dreambit, Ira’s personalized image search engine was acquired by Facebook. The project gained significant media attention when a video of Barack Obama discussing various personal topics, generated through Dreambit, went viral. With a PhD in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Ira spends her time Ira spends her time reimagining how we look at faces and how faces can look when appearances are tweaked or age is accounted for. Whilst this can be entertaining, the system is being used to generate reconstructions for missing persons, lip syncing for evidence, and recreating historic voices. Ira also joined RE•WORK on the Women in AI Podcast to share her recent work.

Name: Maggie Mhanna
Role: Data Scientist
Company: Renault Digital
Event: Deep Learning Summit, London

As well as participating in RE•WORK Summits, Maggie authored a case study in our debut white paper, ‘Should You Be Using AI In Your Business?’ where she shared her experience in applying AI in industry. Renault Digital is a recent affiliate of Renault that started its operations on January 1st, 2017 and aims at digitalizing Renault core business for its employees, partners and clients worldwide. Maggie explained that at Renault Digital, they have based our approach on an inspiring start-up ecosystem. One of the most important core competence at Renault Digital is Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.

Name: Alison Darcy
Role: CEO & Founder
Company: Woebot
Event: AI Assistant Summit, San Francisco

Talking about mental health still has a stigma attached to it, and depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Alison is using AI to tackle this with Woebot, ‘your charming robot friend who is ready to listen 24/7’. Voted entrepreneur of the week by Longevity in July 2018, Alison explained that the Facebook-integrated bot is supported by a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Mental Health. In the study (led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine), they found that those who interacted with Woebot experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression and anxiety after just 2 weeks. In October of last year, AI pioneer Andrew Ng announced that he would be joining Woebot’s board of directors as its chairman, assisting Alison with their mission to build a chatbot that will help the millions of people who struggle with their mental health. Alison also spoke with us on the podcast earlier this year, so watch this space for her episode which will be live soon.

Women in AI is a weekly Podcast featuring the leading minds working in all areas of AI, so please subscribe to continue supporting women in STEM. If  you’d like to get involved, please email Yaz at yhow@re-work for more information.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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