Originally born in Russia, Eve’s career has taken her all over the world, from the US to the UK to Cambodia, and into the offices of young startups and established global organisations alike, including IBM, Ingenico and Alcatel-Lucent (now Nokia). Since arriving in the Netherlands in 2012, she has dedicated her drive and expertise to bridging the gender gap in the AI industry, and opening doors for other female entrepreneurs.
The Impact of Inclusion
Data tells a story of significant gender disparity in tech, not just in the Netherlands but all over Europe. According to 2019’s State of European Tech Report only 5% of Europe’s tech founders are female. ‘Europe has 6 women entrepreneurs for every 10 men when you look across tech and non-tech,’ Eve explains, ‘but in tech alone, that becomes just 5% (1 in 20).
Before launching Women in AI in the Netherlands, I thought, “where are the women?” Then I started witnessing more and more women attending Women in AI events and joining the community. Most of them were curious about starting their own ventures, but something was stopping them. I wanted to know what that was and what could be done to improve gender parity in the startup world.’
Diversity and inclusion is a broad topic that impacts us all, but each industry and sector faces its own unique challenges. In AI, the gender gap is stark; the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 Global Gender Gap Report revealed that men and women are acquiring skills in AI at similar rates, but only 22% of AI professionals across the world are women. That number decreases even further as you move up the seniority ladder.
‘When male entrepreneurs look for funding they generally find it easier because they know how the process works,’ Eve explains. ‘When women approach the same situation, they encounter lots of specifics that count against them. Motherhood, marriage and pregnancy are all seen as exclusively female challenges. Also, the historical record shows mostly men in leadership positions and that creates an additional question – are women even capable of leading and ensuring business growth? But when you look at the revenue produced by startups and companies run by female founders, on average they make 20% more revenue. It shows a clear lack of understanding and underestimation of the ability of women.'
Ultimately that gender gap creates a disparity that affects us all, not just those who work in AI. Year-by-year we further embrace artificial intelligence as the gateway to a more efficient and enlightened world. AI software plays an increasing role in almost every industry, from healthcare and pharmaceuticals to finance to transport. Yet, AI is built from a position of severe imbalance; gender disparity in AI means that gender biases are hard-coded into artificial intelligence software and tools. As AI becomes more entrenched in our lives, those biases become entrenched too. ‘If we don’t find a solution to improving gender parity – in particular in the field of AI – the fully automated world of tomorrow will be highly biased,’ Eve warns. ‘That would be a great threat to humanity’s existence.’