BC Initiative advances the careers of 250 women in AI and data science

Mar 10 2021, 12:01 am

A BC initiative with the goal of closing the gender gap in artificial intelligence has helped advance the careers of 250 women in AI, machine learning, and data science.

Athena Pathways is a Digital Supercluster initiative that officially launched in March 2020 with a goal of enrolling 500 BC women into the fields of artificial intelligence, data science, and machine learning by September 2021.

“In addition to drawing more talent into the ecosystem, Athena will work to correct a gender imbalance that threatens the performance of AI technology itself if left unchecked; models are algorithms fitted to data, and diversity is a critical part of accurate models,” Norma Sheane, administration manager of the Artificial Intelligence network of British Columbia (AInBC), told Daily Hive in an interview.

“Women are currently very underrepresented in technology positions, so programs of this sort are crucial to address gender bias,” stated Sheane.

Athena Pathways is a consortium made up of academia, industry and government. Members include AInBC, BCIT, Careteam Technologies, D-Wave Systems Inc, Digital Technology Supercluster, KPMG, MetaOptima, Northeastern University-Vancouver, SCWIST, SFU, Teck Resources and UBC.

The initiative aims to accomplish its goals through three pathways: education, employment, and mentorships to their applicants.

Funded from Canada’s Digital Supercluster, Athena Pathways has also provided 100 scholarships with $500 scholarships for women taking select courses and workshops from partnering academic institutions, including BCIT, Northeastern University-Vancouver, SFU, and UBC. Athena Pathways also received a significant grant from Microsoft allowing women to take select Microsoft Azure courses for free.

Athena Pathways also works to help women looking for jobs. Their online job board allows consortium members and additional hiring partners to post applicable roles and internship opportunities.

“It’s so important to ensure that we don’t see happen in AI what happened with coding,” explained Dr. Alexandra T. Greenhill, Chair of the Athena Pathways steering committee, in a statement.

“The participation of women in this emerging domain needs to be supported, and Athena Pathways is a great example of what diverse organizations collaborating on this mission can accomplish in a short amount of time.”

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