In partnership with IFA Berlin, Tech Up For Women kicked off its first International TECH UP TALKS Webinar Series around the hot topic of Artificial Intelligence. Host, Faye Holland, Founder and Director of Cofinitive, welcomed Khadija Mustafa, Sr. Director, Head of Global Partnerships for Autonomous Systems, AI & Research Division of Microsoft, who spoke about how AI is changing the workforce and why diversity in this industry is so important.
“AI fundamentally impacts the way we live our lives,” says Mustafa, adding that we are using some form of AI every day, whether we realize it or not. Its most basic use cases are within voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Netflix suggestions, but AI also extends into countless other areas of life like music and art, and even, she says, to make the “perfect Cheeto.”
“AI is becoming pervasive,” Mustafa admits, “and it is only going to keep growing.”
This notion has given rise to the concept of singularity and fear that jobs will suddenly be lost to AI, but Mustafa explains that this concept is nothing new. Jobs have been progressing and transforming since the beginning of time, and this is just another example of that. AI may appear to displace some jobs, but in turn will create greater opportunities within data roles that are both in high demand and high paying.
“Reskilling and retooling workers in the past used to take years. That is no longer true,” says Mustafa who says there are plenty of resources available for those willing to pursue this type of career path including remote learning opportunities and certification programs that are often free.
Right now, there is a global shortage of data scientists, an even greater need for more diversity in the field. In order for AI to work at its best, it requires different insights and people behind this technology from all walks of life – from lawyers to linguists to teachers and more. The businesses that have already started this process are seeing some of the biggest gains.
Mustafa reveals that over 80 percent of businesses say that AI is a top priority, but only about 10-15 percent are implementing it into their strategy. She stresses that businesses need to grab this opportunity now in order to be on the competitive edge, but in some cases, to ensure their survival.
Luckily, it doesn’t take becoming an expert in AI in order to reap its benefits. Hiring the right team of AI experts and data scientists can help businesses target high value areas and see the biggest ROI. The senior ranks making these decisions should also take a close look at the diversity of the AI team. Mustafa admits that certain pieces of AI can become biased, and we all have a responsibility to address that.