Women’s History Month
Supporting staff and students to achieve their full potential since 1968.
Welcome to our weekly CENMAC blog post
Women’s History Month – Women and Technology | by Kathryn Stowell, Head of CENMAC
In the UK, US and Australia Women’s History Month is annually celebrated in March which also includes International Women’s Day (8 March). This month highlights the contributions of women in history and contemporary society. As CENMAC is a technology-based organisation that uses assistive technology to help pupils with a disability to access the curriculum or to communicate, we will celebrate women, technology and share resources.
What better way to start Women’s History Month than
to celebrate the women who have been leaders
in the world of technology.
I recently read How to talk to Robots A girls’ guide to Artificial Intelligence by Tabiha Goldstaub. It’s a brilliant book which is an ideal educational resource. In a time when students face real implications to their digital footprint and stories they are creating online, Tabitha Goldstaub and the women interviewed in this book give a positive easy read to the risks and benefits of AI. As we annoyingly tick the check box ‘accept all’ when entering websites, this book makes you take a much more considered approach to your digital approach online.
This book shared by Hadeel Ayoub another inspirational woman within the assistive technology field, highlights women in the area of technology past and present. What better way to start Women’s History Month than to celebrate the women who have been leaders in the world of technology.
A reference in the book which I really connected with was the future of AI and encouraging a wide range of individuals into technology from every skillset and perspective. My journey into technology was ignited when I saw just how powerful digital tools could be to empower, self-advocate and give a voice to those with the most complex physical and learning needs. My perception was that you needed to be highly skilled within the world of computing, but I quickly realised that there were several general skills like problem solving, patience and creativity that severed me just as well.
As a service providing technologies to enable students, we are aware that less than 30% of students referred to us are girls, we ask ourselves why? Raising the profile for assistive technology for all and encouraging girls to develop these skills can only help the future of diversity, equality and inclusion for all.
How to Talk to Robots: Azeem Azhar in Live Conversations with Tabitha Goldstaub
Women must influence how AI develops. I will encourage my six-year-old granddaughter to use my devices, under supervision, when she is older.
Here are two reviews and thoughts from colleagues on How to talk to Robots and AI:
Why don’t AI voice assistants listen and respond as well to women as they do men? And why are our AI assistants assigned to a feminine form?
This book explores the important issue of discrimination by design, and the risks of creating technology that does not reflect the diversity of the people it aims to serve. The era of AI is here – and girls, we need you to help build it!
Thanks to Charlton Park Academy where I taught and learned to become computer literate, before retiring in 2008, and to Kathryn Stowell in particular, I am not a total dinosaur when it comes to technology.
However, like driving a car without understanding what happens under the bonnet, I have merrily carried on downloading apps and using my smart phone with no real understanding but with the suspicion that my devices are spying on me!
This book, recommended to me by Kathryn, opened my eyes to the importance of knowledge when it comes to technology.
How to talk to Robots is an informative, easy to read book. I had no idea that since the 1960’s so many impressive women were instrumental in the development of AI and the computer sciences.
The main lesson I took from this book is that all of us women should get onboard with technology, be fearless in exploring new devices and applications and not allow the men in our lives have monopoly on gadgets and remote controls.
Machines learn from their users and will reflect the bias of their users. Women must influence how AI develops. I will encourage my six-year-old granddaughter to use my devices, under supervision, when she is older. For now, her mother is keen for her to engage in non-screen play, and that too is particularly important.
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