This International Women’s Day, we at YourStory organised a live Twitter chat in partnership with Microsoft India, focused on AI’s opportunity and influence on professional growth and entrepreneurship for women in tech. The conversation was led by Aparna Gupta – General Manager, India, Commercial Software Engineering (CSE) at Microsoft, Sangeeta Gupta – Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Nasscom, and Shradha Sharma - Founder & CEO, YourStory. The panelists brought a wide range of experiences to the table, offering insightful responses to the thought-provoking questions posed by chat participants who contributed using the hashtags #AIForAll and #IWD2019.
While Aparna Gupta offered her perspective as a woman leader in tech, Sangeeta Gupta brought in an industry perspective from the outside, and Shradha Sharma complemented the two with her insights as a company founder closely tied to the startup ecosystem. Questions from the 45-minute chat session spanned the domain-specific impact of AI, experiences of women in tech, and AI’s role in the startup world.
Early in the session, Aparna was asked: ‘What is Microsoft doing to narrow the gender gap in technology?’ Highlighting Microsoft's Closing the STEM Gap Research, which identifies key insights that encourage young girls to pursue careers in STEM, Aparna Gupta said, “Microsoft is a proud supporter of women and girls in STEM coursework and careers, and we are funding ongoing research to better understand how we can fix the broken pipeline for female STEM talents.” She added that Microsoft’s joint initiative with the Nasscom Foundation was providing in-depth technical training to 500 young women selected from key ITIs across India.
Responding to the question ‘How is Nasscom partnering with organisations to ensure leaders #BalanceForBetter when it comes to diversity in the tech industry?’, Sangeeta Gupta said,“Diversity is a key priority for NASSCOM and its members. We work closely with over 200+ companies to build best practices on diversity, meetups for knowledge exchange, mentor programmes, and awards leading to a vibrant community of diversity leaders.”
The session also witnessed questions on the field of AI. When one participant asked ‘Which sector do you think AI will create a greater impact on in 2019?’, Sangeeta Gupta stepped in to answer, saying “From an India perspective, AI in healthcare has the greatest promise if we can get the implementation right.” Aparna Gupta also gave the examples of Narayana Health andForus Health, who are both already implementing Microsoft AI solutions to solve modern-day healthcare problems.
Participants were also curious about women’s impact on AI startups in India. An interesting question posed to the panel was,‘What are the changes that you’re seeing in the way women entrepreneurs are approaching startups given technologies like AI, blockchain and Quantum are becoming increasingly integral to growth?’ Shradha Sharma answered saying, “Women, like men, are jumping ahead to build some interesting tech ventures in India and outside. I believe that women bring a wider canvas and a lot more depth to the tech solutions that they build.” She cited Blendoor (Stephanie Lampkin) and Pymetrics (Frida Polli) as examples of inspiring AI startups led by women. The panel was also asked ‘What according to you will play an important/decisive role in the success of AI startups in India?’ Shradha Sharma said “Investment and PATIENCE. Indian startups require capital and patience to wait for the magic to happen, now the time has come. We have brilliant minds already.”
When asked ‘What advice would you have for girls who are at the crossroads of choosing a career in STEM?’ Aparna Gupta said,“There is no better time than now to be in STEM. AI has expanded the scope to several other disciplines: Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, Data Scientist and something I came across that resonated- 'Analytics Translators'”. Working at the intersection of AI, analytics, and domain-specific knowledge, analytics translators work with organisation leaders to outline business goals. They leverage their knowledge of AI and analytics to communicate these goals to the data professionals who create the appropriate models and solutions. Translators also ensure that data solutions produce actionable business insights, and communicate the same to business leaders. The field of analytics translation is a truly interdisciplinary role, and a prime example of how AI has expanded the scope of STEM careers.
Throughout the chat, all three panelists painted a hopeful picture for women in STEM and AI-related fields. As the session wrapped up, participants were left with a deep impression of AI’s scope of application. With their valuable insights, the panelists reinforced the significant role AI will play in the startup ecosystem, and the impact it will have on women entrepreneurs and professionals in the coming years.