International Women’s Day 2021

March 8, 2021


Today is International Women’s day and we’re #ChoosingToChallenge the gender gap in Artificial Intelligence (AI).

According to research by WIRED only 12% of leading machine learning researchers are female and LinkedIn and World Economic Forum reports show that only 22% of AI professionals globally are female.

AI Now published a paper called Discriminating Systems: Gender, Race, and Power in AI, in which they state that only 18% of authors at leading AI conferences are women. 

These stats show a shocking imbalance and a lack of diversity. While a lack of diversity in the tech industry is nothing new, it can cause catastrophic problems and create systems that are flawed based on biases. 

We want to encourage and inspire more women to build careers working in AI and Technology. As part of our International Women’s Day celebrations, we would like to highlight to you some of the wonderful women behind NCIMI.

Dr Claire Bloomfield, CEO  

Claire works at the intersections of healthcare research, translation and commercialisation, with experience of working directly as an academic researcher and as a senior research professional. Claire’s own research has focused on Neuroscience and she has held research fellowships at Oxford University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“I have been interested in the ‘why’ of things from a young age. Academic research allowed me to explore the ‘why’ of functions of the brain, and I continue to love to understand the ‘why’ of challenges in healthcare innovation.

AI has great potential to democratize and improve healthcare- it’s an exciting tool to see begin to help people- and that’s what it is really about …helping people. I’m also so proud to get to work with such great women, a few of which we have highlighted below.

My advice to women interested in a career in AI is to apply for the jobs you think look exciting, and where you think you can make a unique contribution- don’t be afraid to stretch. And if the role doesn’t exist see how you can create it, that’s what I did!”

Dr Claire Bloomfield

Sandy FinesilverSmith, Software/Data Engineer 

Sandy acquired BSc and MSc degrees in Electronic Engineering and Computer Science from the University of London. Prior to working at the Big Data Institute with NCIMI, she contributed to research at King’s College London in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences.

“I feel this career chose me! I’ve always loved computers and technology. Academically, I chose Computer Science combined with other research areas of interest and have followed opportunities in this field as they have arisen.

AI is a great field; I love solving problems and the many possibilities it offers. Health research is a very important and extremely rewarding application of my interests and skills but I enjoy investigating a variety of research areas including: Music, Cyber Security, Astronomy and Psychology. I have a particular love of all things VR and this is something I’d like to explore more in the future.

For anyone interested in working in AI, I’d advise them to dive right in – Take the red pill! 😁”

Sandy FinesilverSmith

Anne Powell, DART Project Manager 

Anne has over 15 years of experience in managing projects supporting research systems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, specifically through university consortia. She strongly believes that the provision of data as evidence on which to base research.

“Working with the DART lung health project excites me as earlier and more effective diagnosis of lung cancer would literally be life-changing. It is a privilege to be a part of sourcing and transferring the large and varied pool of data that would enable the development, validation and testing of algorithms.  If AI can detect nodules sooner and more accurately, this releases medical teams to focus on the human side – treating and reassuring patients.

If you’re considering a career in AI, I would say go for it! It is fascinating, but, as in every career, be prepared to meet a multitude of acronyms and abbreviations! And, more positively, some amazing people.”

Anne Powell

Avianna Laws, Trials Co-ordinator 

Avianna has extensive experience working in research governance. She oversees the research projects within the Oxford Radiology Unit and spends the other half of her week supporting NHS, healthcare providers and industry partners of NCIMI in the development and implementation of AI and machine learning projects.

“I always wanted a career in healthcare and choosing a path focused on research has allowed me to pursue all of my interests in ethics, governance and statistics. AI offers the chance to benefit the healthcare environment across a number of boundaries. I have the benefit of being able to apply my skills to multiple specialties/areas; the work is constantly developing and changing which keeps me interested and challenged.

Working in AI involves delivering services in a complex and rapidly changing environment – it’s still a fairly new area so it’s exciting to be involved with a diverse range of people – including lots of women!

If you’re looking at a career in AI, I suggest you find a role model in the sector (I’d recommend Claire Bloomfield, NCIMI CEO) and stay inspired; the more you see other women overcoming challenges and leading the way forward, the more you will believe it is possible”

Avianna Laws

Jessica Burnett, Programme Co-ordinator

Jessica joined NCIMI a year into the programme and brings a range of experience from her previous roles. Jess gained her project experience from various oxford based companies such as Global Canopy and Oxford Policy Management. She is PRINCE2 qualified to the Practitioner level and has qualifications in Agile.

“Working at NCIMI has introduced me to an exciting world of AI in healthcare. It’s amazing to be part of a programme that has such an impact on healthcare and I find it really fulfilling learning and understanding how data is developed and transformed.

My advice for other women who want to start out a career in AI would be don’t be afraid, stand confident, apply your current skills and map them across to a role – there is such a variety of techy and non-techy roles, so there will definitely be something you can excel in.”

Jessica Burnett

Careers in AI

There are a number of exciting roles available in AI and Technology that can be reached through varied career paths. We hope meeting some of the women behind NCIMI has inspired and empowered you.

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg