Leading Slovak laptop scientist Mária Bieliková shares her expertise working as a girl driving technological innovation and displays on how you can encourage the subsequent technology of expertise in tech
It’s no secret that ladies proceed to be underrepresented within the ranks of technologists. Indeed, with the scales historically tipped in the direction of males, we could not all the time understand that lots of the most exceptional innovations, discoveries and breakthroughs which have modified the course of historical past and formed our understanding of the world have been made by ladies.
Did you realize that the world’s first laptop program was written by a lady? The good Ada Lovelace, born into the distinctly patriarchal world of the Victorian period, was far forward of her time in understanding the potential of computing. Indeed, it took the world a century to understand the true scale of her achievements.
March is Women’s History Month, an annual celebration of the ladies who’ve made historical past as pioneers and trailblazers. It’s additionally the proper time to replicate on the challenges – and alternatives – that lie forward of girls of their skilled lives right this moment.
These days, such alternatives are notably aplenty within the vibrant worlds of expertise and innovation. But what’s it like for a lady to construct a profession in a male-dominated business or occupation? Why select a profession in science, expertise, engineering and math (STEM)? What’s holding ladies again from amplifying their voice in tech?
To assist discover solutions to those and different questions, we sat down with main Slovak laptop scientist Mária Bieliková, who has devoted her profession of 30-plus years to expertise and innovation.
A number one Slovak researcher in laptop science and synthetic intelligence, Mária Bieliková has carried out in depth analysis in human-computer interplay evaluation, person modelling and personalization. She additionally works within the data evaluation and modelling of delinquent habits on the Web and engages in public discourse about reliable AI. Formerly a college professor, the vice-dean after which the dean of Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies on the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (STU), she later co-founded and presently leads the Kempelen Institute of Intelligent Technologies (OkayInIT), the place ESET acts as a mentor and companion.
Can you briefly sum up your profession path and inform us a bit about the principle skilled challenges you will have encountered alongside the best way?
I’ve spent my complete profession in academia however all the time regarded to business and companies for collaboration alternatives. Even as a college scholar greater than 30 years in the past, I already labored on a joint challenge with an business companion. Its topic was truly fairly uncommon for academia in Czechoslovakia at the moment – growing an knowledgeable system to diagnose ailments in chickens.
Over time, I moved via a number of educational positions from assistant professor to affiliate professor and professor. I used to be additionally the vice-dean and the dean of STU’s Faculty of Informatics and Information Technologies, the place I led the PeWe (Personalized Web) analysis group that was made up of lots of my good colleagues and college students. I used to be additionally energetic in varied worldwide scientific networks and due to this fact traveled lots.
In 2020, along with some progressive corporations, we established an unbiased analysis institute, OkayInIT, which I presently lead.
The greatest problem? It needed to do with ensuring I contribute in the absolute best option to the skilled and private development of sincere and deeply dedicated specialists with an entrepreneurial spirit.
What does it really feel like for a lady to spend a profession in expertise? Have you ever felt like your job wasn’t secure merely since you’re a lady?
I definitely by no means felt such a ‘threat’. I’ve by no means actually skilled any gender discrimination, neither within the educational atmosphere nor when working throughout the business. If there was any, I didn’t find out about it.
The world has come a great distance and it’s now more and more pure for ladies to be represented in technology-related fields. In truth, inappropriate optimistic discrimination could cause misunderstandings and elicit the other response to what we want.
Actions aimed toward enhancing gender parity in tech might help an amazing deal, however they received’t work in actual life except individuals settle for this equality. And that applies to each women and men. Women additionally must be extra assured.
How can we entice extra ladies into science, expertise, engineering and math (STEM)? Does software program engineering, for instance, provide extra alternatives for ladies than conventional engineering disciplines?
Women ought to certainly be inspired to work in STEM, however so ought to males. Our society right this moment wants expertise specialists, particularly those that can join expertise with the humanities and social disciplines.
The lack of girls within the STEM fields can also be due to stereotypes. Girls are much less prone to play with constructing blocks and usually reply to expectations to pursue careers in non-STEM, slightly than STEM fields. But the scenario is progressively and slowly enhancing.
Computer science and associated disciplines like software program engineering are among the disciplines that supply numerous attention-grabbing alternatives for formidable ladies. Software growth is not only about programming – for instance, it additionally consists of software program necessities specification, designing and testing. You want to speak lots with different individuals, as software program is developed for a particular area or customers who’re normally in a unique area from those that develop the software program. The similar holds for synthetic intelligence and machine studying right this moment, the one distinction is that the “programming part” is a bit totally different.
Teams of execs in a single area, like engineers and laptop scientists, create one thing for different professionals, resembling legal professionals, civil servants, medical doctors, insurance coverage individuals and others. And in such groups, ladies are crucial. They convey new views, they will typically get a way of the ‘right user setting’, for instance when designing person interfaces.
What do ladies convey to the software program engineering desk that’s distinctive?
Women convey extra empathy and emotional intelligence to growth groups and are good at estimating the necessities for interactive functions. But many ladies are additionally nice programmers.
What are your ideas concerning the oft-discussed gender pay hole?
Personally, I’ve truly by no means skilled it. There are loads of males in laptop science and I all the time felt equal to them. But that was undoubtedly because of my office tradition. I used to be very fortunate.
Overall, nevertheless, the pay hole statistics present the necessity to deal with the divide. It’s additionally a problem for AI researchers right this moment, as present programs work on the idea of inference from massive quantities of historic data, which naturally comprise such biases, as they characterize data from earlier selections made by people.
The query is then, can we create programs which can be much less biased than people and nonetheless carry out effectively sufficient? For instance, within the case of men and women, we don’t need programs to make the identical options for each genders, however to not think about gender wherever it shouldn’t be thought of. And that’s not a simple job for present AI programs, particularly deep studying. So far, these programs are usually not clear sufficient for us to know this. After all, human decision-making is equally located, which by definition just isn’t clear to the skin world, and sometimes not even to the human who made the choice primarily based on instinct.
When rising up, did you will have any ladies function fashions in science and expertise? More broadly, how essential is it for ladies to look as much as ladies as scientists making a distinction in individuals’s lives?
No, I had no such feminine function fashions. In addition, I didn’t resolve to enter expertise till proper earlier than I began college. I used to be first psychology and drugs. But I used to be all the time good at math; my father, sister, brother, uncle, and brother-in-law have been all engineers by the point I used to be deciding on my future. So, I utilized to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Slovak Technical University (now Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava) and enrolled in ‘cybernetics’. After the second yr I modified my area of research to ‘electronic computers’.
Now that Slovakia is mostly extra open to the world, issues are totally different and there are a lot of extra such function fashions. And that’s why it’s essential for ladies to see ladies working in STEM fields. Not everyone is as fortunate as I used to be in that though I used to be surrounded by males, all of them inspired me to work in expertise and I felt equal to them. I by no means felt as if a profession in tech wasn’t the best selection for me simply because I’m a woman.
Are there any character traits that assist ladies get began in expertise? How can they study to be extra assured?
I don’t assume there are any particular character traits that predict one’s success in a STEM area. For a number of years, we’ve labored with psychologists to manage the Big Five take a look at to our laptop science college students. We discovered that total, they have been barely beneath common on extraversion (i.e., they have been extra introverted) and sometimes had outliers on different elements as effectively. But there is no such thing as a option to say that extra conscientious, or extra open-minded, or extra delicate, or extra rational individuals are higher laptop scientists. And the identical is definitely true each for women and men.
And whereas women and men do assume in a different way, analysis has proven a number of occasions that ladies are simply as clever usually as males. The bother is, ladies typically underestimate their very own intelligence. Also, males are typically higher at spatial creativeness and still have a greater grasp of numbers. That’s in all probability why there’ll all the time be extra males in expertise. Having mentioned all that, none of this could cease ladies from coming into the sector.
The essential factor is to seek out the best job function. In laptop science and software program engineering particularly, there at the moment are loads of roles which can be actually extra technical in addition to extra centered on social and humanities issues.
One piece of recommendation I’ve is to dive into arithmetic from an early age. Even if you happen to don’t excel at it, simply follow. Practice makes progress, like in working or the rest. And then, someday you’ll understand that the world is totally different, that you’ve an understanding of algorithms, and which you can convey technical approaches to your on a regular basis life.
Thank you in your time.
Happy Women’s History Month!