Abstract: Hardly a week goes by when there isn’t an article written about need for gender equality in tech. The situation is even worse for women in AI where the impact and evidence of gender inequity is not just in the workforce but in gender-based algorithmic bias which is both demonstrable and growing. One thing is clear: in spite of our efforts the numbers are not moving fast enough – especially for women that are disproportionately underrepresented in tech (Black, Latina, Indigenous, and first-generation women, trans, and nonbinary students). Break Through Tech is a national initiative that has taken a unique position at the intersection of industry and academia in order to activate and align both the supply side and the demand side of the equation and to propel more of these women into tech education and careers. We engage in this work with a particular set of beliefs about 1. the overlooked opportunity space represented by young women in our target demographic in their first 2 years of college, 2. the unfortunate conflation of privilege with potential (Franklin-Davis, Farmer, TechCrunch) that persists in making it difficult for these women to ‘get their foot in the door’ of the tech economy and 3. the institutional rigidity at the intersection of academia and industry that makes innovative and systemic change at scale a challenge worthy of attention.
Bio: Judith Spitz, Ph.D. is the Founder and Executive Director of Break Through Tech, a national initiative that propels women and underrepresented groups into higher education and careers in tech through curriculum innovation, career access and community building. She is a member of the Advisory Board of an AI company called ASAPP. From 2005-2016, she was a senior vice president and CIO at Verizon. Forbes named her to their 2021 50 over 50 Women of Impact list. Crain’s named her to their 2019 list of Notable Women in Tech. The NY Business Journal listed her as a 2018 Woman of Influence. In 2017, she received the Above & Beyond Award for Outstanding Women in Business from City & State New York. InfoWorld named her a 2009 CTO 25 award winner. Her passion is driving programs that address the urgent need for more women in technology. She speaks frequently about this, about gender-based algorithmic bias and the future of work in an AI-enabled digital world.
Part of the Illinois Computer Science Speaker Series. Faculty Host: Colleen Lewis