This year, the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 honoring the impact of women under the theme of #BreaktheBias. While we all celebrate on March 8, at Appen, we strive to take steps every day to make the workplace and tech space more diverse, equitably, and free of bias. We know that the more diverse people we bring to the table, the more successful we all are.
How Appen is Working to #BreaktheBias
At Appen, equality and representation have been important to us since the beginning. Our founder, linguist Dr. Julie Vonwiller started this company in 1996 to create data-driven solutions for machine translations. When Appen merged with The Butler Hill Group in 2011, we went from one female founder to a partnership of two incredible female leaders. Lisa Braden-Harder founded The Butler Hill Group in 1993 and stayed on as CEO of Appen until 2015.
With female founders and CEOs at the helm of this business from the beginning, Appen isn’t the typical tech company. Equality and diversity are in our DNA. In 2020, Appen’s senior leadership team was 30% female, and that number is up to 38% as of 2022. But, representation isn’t only important to us on our leadership team. We’re also working to #BreakTheBias and improve diversity in data and lift up women’s voices in the broader tech space.
Promoting Women Around the World to Executive Positions
One of the ways in which Appen is unique is that we have offices and leadership teams around the world. As part of our global reach, we work to promote women to leadership positions in each of our locations. We’ve found that the more diverse voices at the table making decisions, the more successful we all are.
Adding Female Voices to AI and Tech
Tech and AI are male dominated fields. As such, we make sure that our female leaders, founders, and contributors are getting their voices heard. They may still be the minority, but they have a platform from which to speak. Members of the Appen leadership team contribute to expert journals and publications such as Forbes, VentureBeat, and the World Economic Forum Agenda Blog.
Celebrating Appen’s Female Leadership
We not only want to talk about all the ways in which our female leaders make a difference in the industry, we want to highlight them and their contributions to the world of AI and tech.
Jen Cole, SVP and General Manager of Enterprise
When you work at a tech company, you’d think the majority of your time would be spent thinking about technology, the future, and innovation. That’s not entirely wrong, but when you speak to Jen Cole, Senior Vice President of Enterprise at Appen, you get a different story.
When asked about what she wants people to know about Appen, Jen talks about the people who work at Appen. “We have incredible talent and expertise, people who are truly committed to the success of our clients and driven by the new and interesting use cases for our data collection, labeling, and testing capabilities. Yes, we have great tech, but honestly, it is about the people and the tech, this is what enables us to evolve and grow with our clients.”
Sylwia Tur, Senior Manager of AI Specialists
Sylwia Tur is breaking boundaries at every turn. She’s a woman in tech, but she’s also an artist. Based in Seattle, Sylwia has been with Appen for over 16 years. And, in that time, she has worked on some of our most notable and exciting projects within NLP or natural language processing.
Sylwia worked on Appen’s collaboration with Microsoft to create a French Canadian translator and a translator for Inuktitut. As of today, 2 out of 3 Inuit speak Inuktitut, which is down 10% from 15 years ago. And, it’s continuing to fall. By building a translator, those who want to learn the language will have a resource to do so. And, the more people who use the translator, the smarter and better it will get.
Kristin Trujeque, Senior Director of Learning and Development
When people say that women can do it all, they’re speaking about Kristin Trujeque. Kristin has been with Appen for three years now. At the same time, she’s a mother and is part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
One of the most important aspects of Kristin’s job is running Appen’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team. As the leader of this team, she coordinates efforts to ensure that people of diverse genders, races, ethnicities, sexualities, classes, and abilities have their interests represented and their voices heard at Appen—through educational videos and workshops, training toolkits, guest speaker presentations, and sensitive document review.
Sarah Lowe, Vice President of Business Development EMEA and APAC
Located in the UK, Sara Lowe is the Vice President of Business Development for Appen’s European and Asian customers. Not only is she an inspiration for our internal team, but she leads as a beacon for women in tech as a personal passion as well. Last year, Sarah was associated with UNESCO’s ‘Girl Trouble’ which brought together a range of leading female voices in tech to confront the deep-rooted gender imbalances skewing the development of artificial intelligence.
During her 5 years at Appen, Sarah notes that she’s pleased to see that bias and gender balance are being discussed and are regularly at the forefront of many customers’ thinking and planning.
“We shouldn’t have to be talking about [biased data-sets and AI perpetuating harmful stereotypes of women], but we are, and we do. It’s vital. It’s even more important right now to ensure that the AI models being built today, that may endure and be present in our society for years to come, are not built with any kind of bias resulting from oversight or lack of thoughtful intent and conscious awareness.”
Fighting Bias in Data
At Appen, our bread and butter is crafting datasets to train AI and machine learning algorithms. As such, it is our duty to ensure that our training data is representative and free from bias.
However, it is still the case that it can be our role at Appen, as an AI Lifecycle Management company and data partner, to be that trusted advisor to introduce and highlight the need for discussions around the demographics of data, what is the gender balance of participants involved in sourcing data, or the demographics of how, where and by whom the data is being labeled to ensure that models aren’t skewed and biased.
In order to limit bias in AI training data, we:
- Bring subject matter experts and diverse voices to the table to discuss what data should be included in a training dataset
- Create educational content to support our customers in creating bias-free AI algorithms
- Annotate with diversity by leveraging a large pool of human annotators with diverse viewpoints. We are proud to offer a global crowd of over 1 million skilled contractors who speak over 180 languages and dialects, in over 130 countries to ensure you have diversity in data annotations.
Appen’s Crowd Contributors
At Appen, we work with over a million contributors in hundreds of different languages. And, we couldn’t do the work we do without them. Our contributors annotate data so that we can create customized and pre-labeled datasets for our customers. Contributors such as Anna Gourzi and Nichole Davis make our work possible. Without contributors and data annotators, our work wouldn’t be possible. And, because of this work, these women are able to give back to their communities and raise strong, independent families. Thank you, contributors!
Here at Appen, we take the command #BreakTheBias seriously. From the beginning of our story to now, we’ve worked to hire and promote women so that we have a diversity of voices at the table. When everyone is represented, we all succeed. Data bias in AI and an underrepresentation of women in tech are a global problem, which is why we do our small part to make them better.
To learn more about Appen’s pledge to build a diverse and inclusive culture, visit our Environmental Social and Governance page.