CMU-Q’s Houda Bouamor on underrepresentation of women in AI
“Empowering young women in STEM is my life’s mission.”
Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar’s Houda Bouamor participated in a panel discussion on the challenges of gender diversity in the field of artificial intelligence. The panel was part of the IEEE Global Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things. Panelists from across the MENA region shared the challenges they faced as women in an underrepresented field, and their recommendations to increase the participation and visibility of women in the AI revolution. CMU-Q is a Qatar Foundation partner university.
Bouamor noted that within the AI field, “there are very few women who are active members in committees and we commonly find ourselves in meetings surrounded by men. There are women pursuing graduate studies but they don’t necessarily pursue a career.”
Bouamor is an assistant teaching professor of information systems at CMU-Q, specializing in natural language processing and machine learning. She has been in this field for more than a decade
Low representation of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is a worldwide challenge, including fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. According to a 2020 World Economic Forum report on “The Future of Gender Parity,” women hold only 26% of jobs in data and AI roles, with an even lower proportion occupying senior positions in the field.
“The support women receive is key to their career trajectory,” said Bouamor. “Parents are key. Their role is very important in nurturing a woman’s education.”
Female underrepresentation in AI is particularly problematic, given how AI and machine learning algorithms are touching more and more aspects of daily life. Developers of AI systems themselves have implicit biases that could be reflected in the algorithms, and diverse teams help to balance these biases.
As an educator, Bouamor believes she can play an important role in supporting and encouraging female students to find their passion in AI. “I have a very strong interest in promoting any tech related fields among young women. Mentorship is a very important role that we have to take. Empowering women is my personal mission,” she said.