As advances in machine learning and big data make regular headlines, so do stories of gender gaps in pay, leadership, and presence in the scientific fields. An interesting coupling of the two occurred yesterday, when predictive intelligence platform 6sense announced their new patent in a video with a very specific message to women.
While the primary purpose of the announcement was to share news of a patent that would protect the 6sense platform's core predictive technology, CEO Amanda Kahlow dedicated the second half of the recording to sharing a message about gender equality and advancement in the field. "I stand tall and proud to be a part of the less than 1% of technology patent holders who are woman", says Kahlow as she recounts the effort it took to secure the patent. After finding success as a leader in the predictive analytics market, she explains her mission: "I know my core purpose in life is to inspire women and girls."
While patent news isn't typically about gender equality, Kahlow's message deliberately highlights a theme that has permeated recent studies on the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—that have always been dominated by male figures. She's not the only one talking about it.
Women have only accounted for 8% of US patents between 1976 and 2013, a study published by PLOS ONE found. In 2013, they still only accounted for 10% of patents filed that year. Another study on women's participation in technical fields by the National Science Foundation puts computer science and engineering in the "low participation" category, concluding that women still make up only about 30% of total degree-holders in those areas of study.
The 6sense announcement comes on the back of Wednesday's news of a STEM scholarship for women funded by Cards Against Humanity, a trending item that points to a greater focus on bringing female engineers and scientists into the workforce. And in machine learning specifically, highly accomplished women like Stanford's Fei-Fei Li are empowering girls to fill future roles in AI and robotics with programs like summer camps and women's symposiums run by top minds in the field.
Kahlow seem to view acquiring the patent as more than a just a milestone for her company—it's a symbol of her accomplishment as a minority in her field. "Be big, be brave," she tells girls in the video. "Roll your shoulders back, stand tall with confidence and own it."
It may take years for a new generation of women to move through the higher education journey and take on leadership positions in STEM fields. But with the increase in public interest and the efforts of women in top corporate and academic roles, the odds of narrowing the gap look hopeful.