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Faculty member Dr. Jutta Treviranus wins Women in AI award

Black and white composite image of eight women.
Faculty member Dr. Jutta Treviranus wins Women in AI award

Entrepreneurs, researchers, disruptors, innovators and social activists from across Canada, Mexico and the United States came together virtually for the Women in AI (WAI) Awards North America on May 13, 2022. The ceremony honoured top female leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) who are paving new ways in the field. 
 
Faculty of Design Professor Dr. Jutta Treviranus was among the eight recipients of this year's awards and was recognized with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) AI Leader of the Year Award at the prestigious event.  

“I am honoured and humbled to have been chosen from among such an amazing group of women from across North America,” Dr. Treviranus said of winning the award.  

“I need to acknowledge my team and the global community that helps in ensuring that human and machine decision systems treat people who are outliers and small minorities equitably,” she continued.    

Dr. Treviranus was celebrated, in part, for her work as the founder and director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre, an international community of open-source developers, designers, researchers, educators and co-designers who work together to proactively ensure that emerging technology and practices are designed inclusively.  

She has worked in the disability and digital inclusion field since 1979 and has since played a pivotal role in the development of accessibility legislation globally. Her first AI research project investigated the use of voice recognition and dysarthric speech in the 1980s. Dr. Treviranus established the Inclusive Design Research Centre in 1993, which helped to establish the practice of inclusive design that has since been adopted by large companies like Microsoft and the public sector internationally. In 2011, Dr. Treviranus led the creation of the Inclusive Design graduate program at OCAD U.  

“Designing with and addressing the complex challenges of people who are marginalized will benefit all of us. It will mean we are all better able to respond and adapt to unexpected change, detect emerging risks. It will help us reduce disparity, and it may help lift us out of current and future crises,” Dr. Treviranus commented. 
  
In 2013, she continued her work in AI research through a collaboration with the Government of Ontario’s Department of Transportation, evaluating automated vehicle machine learning models. She discovered that AI would amplify, accelerate and automate discrimination against outliers and small minorities and proposed AI systems that could address these inequities. She continued to address AI’s bias against minority groups and the implications for persons with disabilities in 2014, catalyzing a movement that has spread through talks, publications and research.  

Women in AI is a global network of female experts and professionals in the field of artificial intelligence working towards inclusivity in AI. The organization is led by some of the most prominent and influential women in the field and has more than 8,500 members across 140 countries.  

The WAI Awards are sponsored by iconic organizations in AI in Canada, including the Montreal-based machine learning research institute Mila, the Edmonton-based centre focused on industry applications of AI Amii and the University of Toronto partnered Vector Institute. 

The runner-up for the DEI AI Leader of the Year Award was Allison Cohen who is an Applied AI Project Lead, AI for Humanity at Mila. In this role Cohen works with AI researchers and social science experts on socially beneficial AI projects that have included a misogyny detection tool, an application that can identify online activity that is suspected of containing human trafficking victims and an agricultural analytics device that supports sustainable practices among farmers in Rwanda. 

The Canadian jury who selected the winners included University of Alberta professor Eleni Stroulia, engineer and IBM consultant Enikő Rózsa, co-founder of AltaML Nicole Janssen, University of Montreal postdoctoral researcher Taoli Cheng and engineering program manager AI and Special Projects at TELUS Ivey Chiu. Jury members assessed nominees’ innovation, research, leadership and global impact, as their criteria for selecting the award winners.