How do you think we get more women and girls into AI and tech?
I’m passionate about this. That’s why I’m working with Raspberry Pi, a charity that works to put the power of computing and digital making into the hands of people all over the world. I think we need to focus on the outcome, not the technology—the angle is “solve this human problem” instead of “learn Python.” Women like solving problems for other people. If we can begin to talk about AI and data as tools we can use to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, it will stop being a male-dominated area. Every woman I know would want to get involved!
Ironically, I think that women are needed more than ever now. You can’t just be a bedroom coder bashing away on a computer. Women are thinking about real world problems. Take acne, for instance: Let’s think about an AI tool that tells you what food or nutrition works best with your skin type. Every woman is going to care.
What do you think of the qualities of an entrepreneur?
People always ask me, “How did you get into tech, you’re not technical?” Tech just got into me. I was just starting uni when tech, and particularly social media, was so exciting. Facebook had just launched. Traditional jobs seemed boring. I think resilience is probably the key quality you need. And a crazy obsession with solving problems. I’m addicted to things that are a bit broken.
I’ve also always worked with others in partnerships. I’ve never been a solo founder “type.” I’ve had lots of women mentors over the years. I love having the advice and guidance of other women. It’s taken me everywhere. We do these women’s dinners and I have probably 50 women I can go to. I’m having 20 of them for dinner next week—Martha Lane Fox, Hannah Fry, Rachel Caldicott, Poppy Gustafsoon at Darktrace, I could go on, all amazing women! I hope they learn something from me as well—reverse mentoring is so important.
And finally congratulations on your book. Can you tell us about it?
Thank you! The book was written for all the young women in my life—I’m not expecting them to get into tech necessarily but to explain that tech is coming for them. I never set out to write a book originally, but I gave a talk at a fashion magazine, and someone pulled me aside after and said, you need to take this stuff “offline” as all the people you want to reach won’t find it if it stays in the digital realm.
It’s more of handbook really. The central premise is whatever job you do, there’s a bare minimum of this stuff you need to know. I want to make sure these technology leaps are not disadvantaging women. It’s more a self-help book than a tech book, providing reading lists, telling stories and detailing the risks and rewards of data and AI. My readers should come away with a better understanding of how the world is changing and how you can navigate it.
Kirsty Cameron is an Associate and Digital Specialist in Brunswick’s London office. She is also on the Digital Advisory Board of the Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Photograph: Courtesy of CogX