Lack of female representation in AI leadership creates skill gap: MT>Ventures co-founder Aliya Ramji

Adaptability is the new leadership superpower, says Ramji, partner at McCarthy Tétrault

Lack of female representation in AI leadership creates skill gap: MT>Ventures co-founder Aliya Ramji
Aliya Ramji

The new leadership superpower is adaptability, says Aliya Ramji, partner of McCarthy Tétrault and co-founder of MT>Ventures. With everyone “growing up on artificial intelligence,” lawyers are uniquely situated to navigate future complex challenges. But with men disproportionately at the helm in the AI sector, there is currently a female perspective gap, she says. Ramji spoke with Canadian Lawyer about female representation in the AI space and MT>Ventures.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

How are the numbers trending on female representation in AI leadership roles?

They're not trending great. Currently, only 22 percent of AI employees globally are female. This leaves a real gender and skills gap in the sector.

Because 78 percent of AI employees are male, AI will inevitably have inherent biases. From a business perspective, we know that female perspectives at the table can bring insights and principles that will help AI teams develop more valuable products.

How can greater representation of women benefit these companies and the industry?

One of the quotes from the World Economic Forum earlier this year was that to be truly diverse, you need to bring people into AI that think differently. Diverse AI teams can effectively define problems to solve design solutions and construct and train algorithms with a broader lens. Any lack of gender diversity can lead to biases in the AI systems.

By having a more diverse development team – particularly a leadership team – you can bring insight into these products that you otherwise wouldn't have.

What are some of the challenges that women face in the AI industry?

Women don't have much time to play around with the technology. We all recognize that generative AI will enormously impact businesses and industries, including legal, healthcare, and banking. Even women in tech leadership positions are not experimenting with AI.

At our Extraordinary Women in Tech conference last week, there were 100 women in the room in technology leadership positions. Less than 50 percent of those women had been experimenting with AI, knowing that AI would have an enormous economic impact on their industries.

How can women use AI to advance in tech and leadership?

It is not about how women can use AI to advance in leadership in tech. We have this incredible opportunity where women who are not necessarily technical can be very impactful in AI leadership. Lawyers, specifically female lawyers, are uniquely placed to ensure that AI is developed with a lens of accountability, inclusiveness, and fairness.

One of the themes at our conference was the traditional definition of women in tech as women who code. But women don't have to be deeply technical. They must only be technically aware and technically savvy to play an important role in AI.

What are some Canadian women-led tech companies?

In the legal space alone, we have a company called Haloo, which is in our portfolio. They look at trademarking through the AI lens. It is a self-service online trademark platform.

What were the main discussion topics at the Extraordinary Women in Tech Event?

As I mentioned, leadership in AI doesn't have to come from a technical perspective. Responsible AI will require strong voices to advocate for accountability, inclusiveness, reliability and fairness.

Also, as female leaders, we need to start looking at AI and make it part of our daily workflow. To use a new technology, it's a muscle that you must flex. We've seen this in other technologies before. Lawyers need to start using AI.

Another theme is that the new superpower in being a leader is being adaptable. We all know that change is inevitable. The next generation of lawyers will need to be adaptable. Lawyers are uniquely placed to navigate the complex challenges of AI.

Everyone is growing up on AI, so no one has an advantage or a disadvantage. So, there's a real opportunity for women in AI leadership positions.

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