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New Concordia mentoring project addresses gender inequity in artificial intelligence

GEMinAI will support women and gender non-conforming students by pairing them with experts in the field
November 28, 2023

The Gender Equity Mentoring in Artificial Intelligence program (GEMinAI) launched October 19 with a networking event at Concordia’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. The program is the first of its kind at Concordia created specifically to support women and gender non-conforming students who intend to enter the rapidly advancing field of AI.

The program follows in the steps of the Gina Cody School itself. The school stands out as the first engineering faculty in Canada named after a woman. This honour is a testament to the trailblazing achievements of its namesake, who in 1989 was the first woman to earn a PhD in building engineering from Concordia.

GEMinAI matches women and gender non-conforming graduate and undergraduate mentees to experienced mentors in various industries that engage with AI. Thirteen students from Concordia are set to participate in the program’s first cohort this academic year. 

The initiative is a joint project of Concordia’s CREATE SE4AI and the Applied AI Institute.

CREATE SE4A1 is a graduate program funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The program trains the next generation of professionals in the technical, social, and ethical aspects of AI-based software systems.

The Applied AI Institute coordinates research across university faculties as well as business, government and other researchers. The Institute works to demystify and enable real-world applications for AI. 

GEMinAI is spearheaded by creative minds from both programs — Lindsay Rodgers, Lori Akiyama, and Mitali Ruths.

Lindsay Rodgers, the advisor for knowledge mobilization at the Applied AI Institute, highlights that only 25 per cent of AI specialists are women. GEMinAI was created as a proactive response to this imbalance. Rodgers says the project is striving to reshape the statistics by fostering a supportive environment for women and gender non-conforming people in AI.

For Lori Akiyama, CREATE SE4AI’s program coordinator, GEMinAI has already exceeded expectations.

“We wanted to find 10 women mentors prior to launching the program. We are happy to report that we exceeded that original goal and now have 13 amazing mentors who are graciously offering their time,” Akiyama says. 

The program kicked off with an event featuring an icebreaker activity and informative sessions. The goal was not only to facilitate networking among participants but also to provide a platform to address queries and set expectations for the upcoming mentoring sessions.

“The novelty of a room filled with women AI professionals was a poignant experience, underlining the program's commitment to creating a supportive community within the AI landscape,” Rodgers said.

As GEMinAI gains momentum, the program coordinators say that they seek to bridge the gender gap in AI. Additionally, they say they hope to set a precedent for mentorship programs in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.

The collaboration between CREATE SE4AI and the Applied AI Institute exemplifies Concordia's dedication to fostering inclusive excellence in the field of artificial intelligence.

With its promising start, GEMinAI is poised to become a catalyst for change, inspiring and empowering gender diversity in AI for years to come.

Learn more about the offerings in Concordia’s NSERC CREATE SE4AI program.



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