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Uniting Leaders and Young Talents to Address Gender Bias in AI

No matter how great, the power of AI just keeps increasing. It can provide so many different perspectives and answers and, at the same time, raise an equally large number of important questions. And this is precisely what we hoped to achieve by discussing the topic of gender bias in AI with a panel of renowned female professionals, paving the way for future generations who are yet to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.  

The perpetuation of real-world bias 

During the hour-and-a-half panel discussion “Hack the Gender Gap: AI for All”, we barely scratched the surface. Still, one point worth mentioning, obvious yet powerful, boils down to this: AI just seems to replicate real-world bias.  

The tricky part is, though, how to break the vicious circle of biased data leading to biased outcomes. Our idea of approaching this problem was to unite experienced leaders and young talents in devising solutions that would put AI to ethical usages that deconstruct bias and promote inclusion and equality. 

Alleviating bias through diversity 

To this end, we organized HTEC Idea Marathon, a 42-hour hackathon for women students from all over Southeast Europe. For 42 hours, students worked hard with their HTEC mentors, discussing real-world negative implications of AI they’ve witnessed and conceptualizing ideas on how to put AI to use that would restore the balance. 

As one of our panelists, Neda Cvijetić, nicely put it, “diverse teams build the best products because they think about customers who look like them, think like them, and act like them.“ With initiatives like HTEC Idea Marathon, we strive to empower young women and inspire them to pursue a career in STEM, add to the diversity, and bring a new perspective and energy to the table.   

The winning solution: Be fAIr

We heard some great ideas, and the jury did not have an easy job deciding on the winner of the hackathon. After carefully evaluating all the solutions, they pronounced the winner: team brAIny. 

The team singled out the problem of online gender violence and the lack of awareness of this issue among the teenage population. Their solution is a tool designed to monitor, detect, and flag gender-based online violence on social media using an AI model based on NLP. The main idea is to raise awareness about this issue, educate the users, and create a safer, more respectful, and more equitable digital space on social media. 

Be fAIr Solution

What all the teams have identified in their ideas is that the change should start with all of us. By creating a less biased reality, we will be able to be a much better role model for AI to learn from. As our winning team presenter nicely observed, “AI affects and shapes our reality, and we shape AI.“ 

We want to thank and congratulate all the teams on their amazing effort and ideas! Just like them, we are confident that the change of mindset starts with education. We hope the winning team will enjoy their awards: MasterClass licenses, an online coaching session with Amanda Goltz, US Healthcare Lead for the Worldwide Public Sector Healthcare Venture Capital and Startups, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and a visit to our Belgrade office, where they will meet their mentors in person, learn more about our company, and get valuable knowledge about the diverse career opportunities our industry offers. 

The power of mentorship 

We also caught up with one of the mentors, Ana Gakidev, who had a unique experience of being both a participant in the contest as a student and, just a year later, an HTEC mentor. 

Last year, I had a chance to participate in HTEC’s Idea Marathon with ambitious, smart and fierce ladies from the region. This was my first encounter with HTEC and the tipping point of starting a career at HTEC. It was a great learning and networking opportunity. We were challenged, encouraged and unconditionally supported by our mentors to deliver our best.  

One year later, I was privileged to be part of HTEC’s Idea Marathon as a mentor. The excitement and the challenge were equally present. I could easily put myself in the participants’ shoes, and I was happy to be their ally.   

HTEC Idea Marathon is a carefully thought-out event, providing participants with an exclusive opportunity to network with professionals from different business domains, work in teams and pitch their ideas in front of industry experts.   

My advice to the girls considering a career in IT would be not to be intimidated, to create their network, and enjoy the ride! Our industry inspires you to be creative and innovative. It is no secret that women are still a minority in the IT industry. However, this is changing. I am very proud that HTEC is committed to making this change come to life.”