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The Future is Intersectional: Black Women Interrogating Technology Share a Spelman College Press Release


Jazmyn Burton
Spelman College

 The Future is Intersectional_ Black Women Interrogating Technology

ATLANTA (February 26, 2021) The Spelman College Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, in partnership with the Atlanta University Center Data Science Initiative, UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, and Mozilla Foundation will launch a year-long lecture series focused on highlighting the unique lens Black women bring to the development and utilization of technology in our society.

"The Future is Intersectional: Black Women Interrogating Technology" will focus on the vast contributions Black women make to advancements in technology, and address the challenges many face in a field where they are both underrepresented and undervalued.

The series kicks-off at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4, 2021, with an inaugural keynote delivered by Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D., C'2001, professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and founder of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab, which brings together students educators, activists and artists to rethink and retool data for justice.

"From racial bias embedded in algorithms to false data online, there is a diversity crisis in the tech industry. In response to this issue, a homogenous group of technologists are building solutions for our diverse population," said Tamara Pearson, Ph.D., C'96, director of the COE-MWS. "This lack of diversity results in biased technology products that, at best, don't serve everyone and, at worst, actively harm historically marginalized groups. This series will include the voices of Black women who will discuss the intersectional oppression prevalent in the technology industry and how the voices, and work of Black women are imperative in moving us in a more ethical and inclusive direction."

Ranked as the No. 1 HBCU in the country for 14 years in a row, Spelman has a long history of educating and preparing women of color to earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and become STEM leaders and professionals.

Spelman's accomplishments, considered against the current national backdrop, illustrate the critical role this unique institution plays in preparing STEM professionals and leaders that are representative of the diversity of America.

The first three lectures in March will be presented in partnership with MozFest, a virtual conference hosted by the Mozilla Foundation. This year, MozFest will focus on potential solutions to combat biased algorithms, online misinformation and a host of other internet issues.

The Future is Intersectional: Black Women Interrogating Technology

The New Jim Code? Reimagining the Default Settings of Technology and Society
Opening keynote presented by Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D., C'2001
6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4
Register in advance through Zoom.
Dr. Benjamin's presentation will take the audience into the world of biased bots, altruistic algorithms, and their many entanglements, and provide conceptual tools to decode tech promises through historical and sociological insight.

Disrupting the Status Quo in Technology
5:30 p.m., Monday, March 15
A panel of distinguished Black women will discuss the intersectional oppression prevalent in the technology industry and how the voices and work of Black women are imperative in moving us in a more ethical and inclusive direction.

Featured panelists
Meredith Broussard, data journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University.

Aerica Shimizu Banks, founder of Shiso, a consultancy that applies an intersectional equity lens to solve the most pressing challenges in tech, policy, and business.

Lolade Siyonbolo, founder of NOIR Labs, a consulting company that supports institutions, companies and individuals in developing rich, intuitive, data-driven experiences and digital products for targeted segments of the African Diaspora.

Responding to Coded Bias: Black Women Interrogating Artificial intelligence
5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 17
Panelists will discuss the critical themes highlighted in "Coded Bias," an acclaimed documentary exploring the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini's discovery of racial bias in facial recognition algorithms.

Featured panelists
Renée Cummings,  criminologist, criminal psychologist, therapeutic jurisprudence specialist, artificial intelligence ethicist and the historic first Data Activist in Residence at The School of Data Science, University of Virginia.

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering, The Ohio State University, and author of "Sex, Race, and Robots: How to be Human in the Age of AI."

Ifeoma Ozoma, founder and principal of Earthseed, a consulting firm advising individuals, organizations, and companies on the issues of tech accountability, public policy, health misinformation and related communication.

Deborah Raji, a Mozilla Fellow and founder of Project Interlude, a non-profit initiative created to increase access to engineering education in low income and immigrant communities in partnership with Toronto Public Libraries and Google Ignite CS.

For more information visit the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM.

About Spelman College
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College's picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College's status is confirmed by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 54 among all liberal arts colleges, No. 19 for undergraduate teaching, No. 4 for social mobility among liberal arts colleges, and No. 1 for the 14th year among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Recent initiatives include a designation by the Department of Defense as a Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM, a Gender and Sexuality Studies Institute, the first endowed queer studies chair at an HBCU, and a program to increase the number of Black women Ph.D.s in economics. New majors have been added, including documentary filmmaking and photography, and partnerships have been established with MIT's Media Lab, the Broad Institute and the Army Research Lab for artificial intelligence and machine learning. Outstanding alumnae include Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind Brewer, political leader Stacey Abrams, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna president Audrey Forbes Manley, actress and producer Latanya Richardson Jackson, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit Spelman College.


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