Takeaways from the inaugural Women in AI Breakfast at Transform 2019

Takeaways from the inaugural Women in AI Breakfast at Transform 2019

At Transform 2018 only 5% of conference attendees were women; this year, that number soared to 30%.


The change comes as organizers made a specific commitment to boosting diversity at this year’s event, which includes the invite-only Women in AI breakfast. The importance of that commitment, on both a personal and corporate level, was a major takeaway of the event, says Julie Choi, VP, Artificial Intelligence Products Group, at Intel, on stage at Transform 2019. She was joined by Jessica Wang, VP Marketing at Mixpanel, to give a recap of the morning’s closed event.


“Diversity doesn’t just happen in a vacuum,” Choi said. “It is an incredibly intentional act — you don’t go from five to 30% without a plan, and without intention.”


The breakfast hosted over 200 women founders, inventors, researchers, and activists in the AI sector. Attendees ranged from IBM’s leader of customer experience and the head of engineering from Uber, who works on the company’s UTG division, to startup founders who are building out a global network of women investing in women, researching women and voice, and more.


“If you want to build the best products that are really differentiated you’re going to need diversity, and that is not going to happen automatically,” Choi added. “And it doesn’t just get built by our HR teams — it’s every single person in this room, having the intention to be inclusive and to be diverse in the way you think and open minded.”


She pointed to Intel’s diversity initiative, which initially aimed to create a fully integrated workplace by 2020, but actually hit that goal in 2018.


“What drew me to work for the AI products group was the diversity of the team of leaders,” Choi said. That includes the diverse backgrounds of the Nervana project team, and Huma Abidi, Engineering Director of Machine Learning and Deep Learning, and a Women in AI Award nominee in the AI Mentorship category.


“That’s a lot of diversity powering the creation of a hardware that’s just altogether transformative,” said Choi.


The other women- and diversity-focused events at this year’s Transform include the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion In AI roundtable which happens July 11, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, and the Women in AI Awards, which will be announced at the Diversity in AI reception from 5:00 – 6:30.