Industrial AI Summit: Firms lacking women in leadership roles are missing out on top talent

Businesses urged to evaluate hiring practices and advancement policies

Ben Wodecki

June 30, 2021

2 Min Read

Companies in tech and manufacturing with little to no female presence in leadership roles are missing out on both talent and creativity, speakers at the Industrial AI Summit warned.

Speaking during the Women Leaders In The Future of Manufacturing session, Elizabeth Donnelly, CEO of the Women's Engineering Society, said that companies should seek advice from industry groups to help develop processes for identifying qualified personnel from diverse backgrounds.

“It also requires a commitment to identify women who could be supported into senior roles,” she added.

Allison Grealis, president of the Women in Manufacturing Society, encouraged those looking to take up leadership positions to find mentors, both men and women, in other leadership roles.

“Executive coaching is also really helpful, accessible, and affordable. If firms have a drought of women in leadership roles, I would encourage the company to evaluate their advancement policies and practices,” she said.

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’

A recent survey from Deloitte found that women represented just 26 percent of the AI workforce in the US. In that survey, 68 percent of female respondents said sexual or gender-based stereotypes served as an obstacle in their professional careers.

Speakers at the Industrial AI Summit stressed the importance of increasing and maintaining diversity in artificial intelligence, describing it as “hugely important.”

Stephanie Holko, manufacturing digital transformation project manager at ArcelorMittal Dofasco, said multiple studies have found that datasets don’t accurately depict society. She warned that models that use language processing could misinterpret some terms if trained incorrectly, causing negative outcomes.

While praising the work that’s currently being done to encourage women and non-binary people into tech and manufacturing, “there is a leaky pipeline,” Holko said, adding that those who join don’t tend to stay.

"These are people that have skills and they want to do it but they find it unwelcoming. Even panels like this are ways to bring this to the forefront – I'd encourage companies watching this to look at their culture."

Grealis said that data is available which shows that diverse teams are more profitable and efficient, and that because women aren't already in leadership roles, hiring women becomes a challenge.

“We always say, you can’t be what you can’t see,” she concluded.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Assistant Editor

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