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The awards recognize and honor the women leaders and changemakers in the field of AI. The nominees were submitted by the public and winners chosen by a VentureBeat committee. Winners were selected based on their commitment to the industry, their work to increase inclusivity in the field and their positive influence in the community. 

The winners were presented with the awards by VentureBeat’s Sharon Goldman, senior AI writer, and Gina Joseph, chief strategy officer.

Joseph emphasized the importance of the awards and the Women in AI breakfast. “This is why we do it. I mean, you heard it directly from the women leaders. They are making an impact, they are making a difference and we need to help support each other and as organizations, as leaders, as influencers we need to put a spotlight on women in tech, women leaders, women in AI.”

AI Entrepreneur: Bringing AI out of the lab and into the real world

This award honors a woman who has started companies that are showing great promise in AI. Consideration was given to things like business traction, the technology solution, and impact in the AI space.

Our winner is May Wang, CTO of IoT security at Palo AltoNetworks. Wang has been pioneering work in AI-based security. She is leading the effort to leverage AI to revolutionize cybersecurity as a whole. Wang has co-founded Zingbox, an IoT cybersecurity company, the first AI-based cybersecurity solution for IoT.

During her acceptance speech at VentureBeat Transform today, she recalled meeting with a female investor while trying to get venture capital funding for Zingbox. “She said to me, ‘I’ve been investing in cybersecurity for more than 10 years. You’re the first female funder sitting in this boardroom,’” Wang recalled. “Last year, women-funded companies only raised 1.9% of all VC funds. We have a long way to go for both AI and female engineers. Let’s work together and support each other.”

AI Research: Fueling the next wave of transformative AI

This award honors a woman who has made a significant impact in an area of research in AI, helping accelerate progress either within her organization, as part of academic research, or impacting AI generally.

Our winner is Karen Myers, lab director at the artificial intelligence center at SRI International. Myers received the top honor for SRI technical staff and was named an SRI Fellow in 2016; she became director of the AI center the following year. She is the author of more than 100 publications and seven issued patents. Her research has impacted both the commercial and government sectors, with transitions in areas spanning natural language processing, workflow automation, robotics and intelligent assistance.

During her acceptance speech today, she recalled her early years working in AI and being the only woman in most rooms she was in. She urged everyone in attendance and watching virtually to encourage the young girls in their lives to study computer science. She said only 25% of computer engineering degrees were earned by women. “We need to get more women in the field because it’s good for everybody if we have more diversity in the field, so go home and do your part.

“So thank you so much for shining the light on all the great things that women in AI are doing, and I would just ask everybody, please encourage your daughters, your nieces, your neighbors to get into computer science. We still have a problem in the field that right now only 25% of the computer engineering degrees are for women. And we need to fix this problem.”

AI Mentorship: Building up the next generation of women in AI

This award honors a woman leader who has helped mentor other women in the field of AI, providing guidance and support and/or encouraging more women to enter the field.

Our winner is Chenxi Wang, founder and general partner at Rain Capital, a cybersecurity-focused venture capital firm that is 100% woman-managed. Wang recently founded the Forte Group, a women-in-tech advocacy group. Her career began as a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Virginia.

During her acceptance speech at VB Transform, Wang recalled how she was told at numerous points during her academic and corporate career that she could not achieve her dreams and goals. “Then I started my own venture fund, and yes, it’s possible,” she said.

Responsibility & Ethics of AI: Thoughtfully building AI that leads to a better and more equitable world

This award honors a woman who demonstrates exemplary leadership and progress in the growing hot topic of responsible AI.

Our winner, Diya Wynn, is senior practice manager for responsible AI at AWS. She has a passion for developing current and emerging leaders; promoting STEM to the underrepresented; and driving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Wynn mentors young students and guest lectures at universities across the world.

During her acceptance speech at VB Transform, Wynn said it was an honor to be recognized for her work. She hopes that “girls [in general] and Black girls will see me as an example of something that is possible for them.” Wynn said it was an honor to know that the work she initiated helps customers build responsibly and operationalize responsibly, “advancing the science around responsible AI and the investments we’re making and building into the next generation. Those are the right things for us to do to build a better future. A future where building responsibly and inclusively is just the way that we all know.”

Rising Star: Honoring women in the early stages of their career who demonstrate that ‘something special’

This award honors a woman in the early stage of her AI career who has demonstrated exemplary leadership traits.

Our winner is Mahsa Ghafarianzadeh, engineering manager of behavior prediction at Zoox. Ghafarianzadeh was born and raised in Iran, and came to the U.S. to pursue her passion for robotics. She has a Ph.D. in computer science. Ghafarianzadeh started at Zoox as a research intern working in deep learning and computer vision. She went on to become a research engineer and then engineering manager on the software prediction team. Ghafarianzadeh is on 28 patents globally from eight patent families.

During her acceptance speech Ghafarianzadeh thanked her mentors and her mother for supporting and guiding her. She also dedicated her award to the women in Iran “who have been fighting for their freedom in the past year.”

We’d like to congratulate all of the women who were nominated to receive a Women in AI Award. Thanks to everyone for their nominations and for contributing to the growing awareness of women who are making a significant difference in AI.

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