Author: Analisa Ruiz, Projects Intern at C Minds
For International Women's Month, the C Minds team wants to highlight 5 incredible women who have been key actors in advancing the field of Artificial Intelligence in Mexico. Since gender parity has yet to be achieved in the field of technology, among many others, we want to remind readers that female representation is not just a social obligation or moral duty. Rather, it is imperative in reaching Mexico’s (and any country’s) potential for economic growth. Quoting the World Bank directly: “Worldwide experience shows clearly that supporting a stronger role for women contributes to economic growth [...] In short, investing in women is central to sustainable development.”
We hope this blog post inspires women across Mexico to pursue their passion, be it for science or any other area where equality is not yet a given. Thanks to Andrea, Haydé, Lourdes, Marisol, and Yunive for sharing their experiences, their vision, and their wisdom with us!
Andrea Escobedo Lastiri, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs, IBM
At IBM, Andrea acts as a bridge between the tech sector and the Mexican government. Alongside the global CEO, the VP of Latin America, and the majority of the Board of Directors in Mexico, Andrea is part of a fantastic team of women developing technology and creating opportunities that benefit society as a whole. Curious to know how she got here?
Asked about her formative years, Andrea remembers that she and her sister were encouraged and raised to see education as a tool for independence. Their parents encouraged them to seek education in every area of life, be it in the classroom, but also the lessons they learned from traveling, sports, and the arts. Andrea is grateful, and considers herself lucky to have such supporting parents growing up. She feels this approach to life enabled her to better identify and take advantage of opportunities both personally and professionally. Now with a successful career at IBM Mexico, she uses her position to promote inclusion and equality among the company. For Andrea, diversity is not simply a social responsibility, but rather, an indispensable element for innovation.
Andrea’s work, where she acts as a bridge between the company and Mexico, reflects this belief in the importance of diversity. She works to ensure that initiatives and projects are carried out for the benefit of society. This includes promoting an AI agenda in Mexico with a focus on ethics and inclusion. She achieves this by encouraging partnerships between industry, academia, the public sector, and civil society, advocating for an ecosystem that works together to guarantee innovation based on the principles of transparency, data privacy, trust, and diversity. Indeed, Andrea believes that technological change involves all of us, and that an AI agenda built through collaboration ensures that everyone can take advantage of the benefits of such emerging technologies.
In the next decade, Andrea hopes to see technology become a matter of public interest in Mexico, understood as a way to address national priorities. By working with machines, Andrea imagines a future where we can develop our creativity, become more empathetic with people, and create more meaningful interactions. Many routine tasks and processes have already become automated, which Andrea views as an opportunity to enhance human intelligence, rather than replace it.
Haydé Martínez Landa, Founder, De Cero a Ciencia de Datos
Haydé is one of the few women data scientists in the world - only 15% of data scientists are female - and a firm believer in Mexico’s potential to achieve social and economic growth via new technologies. Find out what she has been up to and how she fought the odds to get to where she currently is.
Haydé carried out her studies in Japan, and was faced with the challenge known to many of us when she graduated: where to next? Many people advised her to go to the US or another country to make the most of her graduate degree in Artificial Intelligence. However, she believed that she could take full advantage of her degree right back at home, in Mexico. Knowing the challenges faced here, but also the potential in the country, she saw the technology as an opportunity to create new opportunities. With this approach, she set out to start her professional career in Jalisco, Mexico’s state capital of innovation. During her first two years in Guadalajara, Jalisco, she gave introductory conferences and workshops on Artificial Intelligence, until one day she was approached by a woman looking for a specific course that could further her knowledge on the subject. This interest inspired her to create De Cero a Ciencia de Datos, a specialized academy for Data Science and Machine Learning, which has now accepted its second generation of students.
Haydé built a successful career through personal determination and the example of her colleagues, but also recalls the times she had to overcome obstacles to get to where she is now. She remembers a certain lack of empathy from her peers as the only woman studying Computer Systems Engineering, as well as sexist comments and harassment in the workplace. The support of her teachers and friends helped her overcome these difficulties to follow her passion. She now runs the Data Science course in addition to her job as a Software Engineer at Intel, a full career that allows her to use AI as a tool to improve the quality of life for the people around her, hoping that her work will help build a better world for all, while still managing to care for her 3 rescue dogs and cat.
Finally, a few words of wisdom directly from Haydé: ‘Always fight for what you want and be sure that this is really your desire and not that of society. Furthermore, never remain silent in the face of injustices or complicated situations, whether you are a witness or the victim because facing these situations will contribute to a better future for new generations. Passion is something that only increases with time, so if you know what you like, be sure to leave your doubts aside and follow it.’
María de Lourdes Martínez Villaseñor, Treasurer, Mexican AI Society and Head of the Computation Department, Universidad Panamericana
Lourdes is one of Mexico’s leading AI researchers and part of Mexico’s Artificial Intelligence Society, as well as IA2030Mx. Her passion for the topic started when she was a young girl on a school trip. Read about her experience growing up in a world where computers were still uncommon, and find out how despite this she achieved the impressive track record she has today.
Lourdes remembers always having had an affinity for math and physics. When she was in school, computers were not very common, but one day during a school visit to a company she had the opportunity to see one from afar and it caught her attention. Years later, this curiosity led her to enroll in the Computer Systems Engineering career at Tecnológico de Monterrey. This was only a first step of many. In addition to her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Systems Engineering, she now holds a Doctorate in Computational Sciences and a Master's Degree in Family Education, which she considers a great humanistic complement to her technological education.
Like many of her colleagues’, Lourdes’ career has not been exempt from gender-based challenges: from colleagues who feel threatened by her success, to discrimination, or teachers who disparage her contributions, to name just a few. On the bright side, she has also had bosses, professors, and colleagues, both men and women, who have encouraged her to go forward and acknowledge her as a professional. In addition to this professional reinforcement, Lourdes also has the support of her family. She takes inspiration from her maternal grandmother, who was an orphan and started working at the young age of 14 to raise her brothers. Years later, she would become the director of an important company. She is also inspired by her mother, who, despite not having the opportunity to attend school, divided her time between working and studying. Lourdes treasures the support these two women gave her both to complete her studies and strive towards her goals later in life.
When we asked her what advice she had for young women, Lourdes answered, ‘Since we are little girls, we live between paradigms of roles and stereotypes. How many times do we hear that women are not able to drive a car or understand math? Even toys mark gender stereotypes. However, gender does not determine the ability to do science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Particularly in computer science, there are pioneering women who marked the history like Ada Lovelace, Grace Murray, Lynn Conway, among many others. Study and work in what interests you and do not let stereotypes limit you. If you are inclined towards mathematics, you are curious and tenacious, surely you can be very successful in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. From there to artificial intelligence, there is only one step.’
Marisol Flores Garrido, Professor in Science Information Technology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Multiple studies have revealed the positive effect that female professors have on the performance of female students, particularly in the area of STEM. Marisol is one of these professors. Everyday, she inspires her students and serves as a role model for women looking to the engineering and computing fields as career options. Learn about how she found her love for mathematics and how she continues to find joy in her research.
While many of us spend our lives trying to find our passion, Marisol found hers at a young age: math. Since then, her love and respect for the area has only grown. She sees math as a universal language and is constantly amazed at what it can achieve when implemented in other areas. She spends her time questioning the applications and limitations of data science, trying to make new discoveries about this fascinating topic.
Algorithms, she believes, offer infinite possibilities, which can be untapped by applying AI to challenges faced in different disciplines. She is mainly interested in the intersection between data science and the humanities, exploring how her skills can complement the study of history or literature. She also teaches her students about digital issues, forming a generation of professionals that is aware of the challenges associated with the use of data, and able to overcome them in ethical manners.
In order to pursue her passion, Marisol has had to overcome stereotypes and hostile environments. This challenging experience has strengthened her sense of inclusion, encouraging her to actively seek out different voices and build technology that contributes to a more just society. She understands that, while algorithms and data are associated with objectivity in the common mindset, they actually reflect the circumstances and biases of the developers. Marisol is very aware of humans’ influence on AI, which is why she always seeks to predict and understand the potential consequences and social implications of algorithms as she is creating them, recognizing the responsibility she holds, as a data scientists, to transform our society for the better. To quote Garry Kasparov, “We need better humans, not less technology.”
Yunive Moreno Sanchez, Liaison Director for the Innovation Coordination, State of Jalisco Government
We asked Yunive for her bio and noticed that the very first thing it said was “Emma’s mom”. We love how proud she is not only of her many career accomplishments, but also of her role as a mother. She is one of the many women across the world balancing time between motherhood and her work. Keep reading to learn about her experience.
Since the beginning of her professional career, Yunive has been working in the field of technology. She had never imagined that she would work in the public sector; however, when presented with the opportunity to join the Innovation Directorate for the government of Jalisco, she jumped right in and joined a dynamic team, where she was able to contribute and strengthen her networking and project management skills to contribute towards positive actions in public administration.
Yunive has dedicated herself to untapping the benefits of new technologies. Among the many international projects she has executed over her professional career, she is most proud of her work in 2016, when she was part of a team that received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to execute an urban innovation project. This project, in addition to the work she does day-to-day, contributes to boosting the great potential she sees in Mexico. She believes that through technology, Mexico has the ability to improve processes in all areas, both public and private.
Her exciting career has not been without challenges. After the birth of her daughter Emma, Yunive faced a decision all-too-common for women today: making the decision of whether or not to continue her professional career. She made the choice to proceed with her work, a decision facilitated by the support she received both from her work team and from her family. Yunive recognizes that many women do not have the same opportunity to pursue their professional career due to different circumstances, and for that reason feels fortunate to be supported in her current role in the government of Jalisco.
To our readers, Yunive shares: ‘Do not forget that this month is a great opportunity to remember the struggle of all women to be included in a fair and equitable way in the workplace. Still in 2019, we face a series of inequalities and sacrifices in order to continue growing professionally. However, we must not forget what we, as women, are capable of and for that I encourage you to create and maintain a support system to achieve your personal and professional goals.’
At C Minds, we are proud to collaborate with such talented professionals as Andrea, Haydé, Lourdes, Marisol, and Yunive, along with a growing list of female leaders who, from different disciplines, have the same goal: to help Mexico take advantage of the potential of new technologies and use them as tools to close inequality gaps and create a more positive future for all. During this month of March, let’s keep voicing women’s achievements and continue defying the glass ceilings that have yet to be broken.