Women in STEM: Joy Buolamwini
Joy Buolamwini is a digital activist, championing social issues in the medium that she believes will best shine a light on her message.
Whether she’s promoting human rights through technology as the founder of Code4Rights or working as a Graduate Researcher at the MIT Media Lab, Buolamwini refers to herself as a Poet of Code. And in her thirty years on this planet, she’s played that role in numerous ways.
Raised in Mississippi, she’s been a Computer Science student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A filmmaker: Code4Rights and Algorithmic Justice League. And a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters from Oxford to go along with the one that she earned from MIT.
Then there was the time she joined forces with former President Jimmy Carter’s not-for-profit Trachoma program (trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness). Her goal? To develop an Android-based system to assess the disease in Ethiopia in an effort to eliminate it worldwide.
Or when as a Fulbright fellow, she coordinated with local computer scientists in Zambia to inspire their youth to create with technology.
She’ll tell you herself: “I am a poet of code on a mission to show compassion through computation.”
As founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, she’s “fighting bias in algorythms” that can lead to racial and gender discrimination in artifial inteligence. And, true to form, she designs computer systems to ensure accountability for those responsible. Her aim is to “create more ethical and inclusive technology.”
For more from Buolamwini on the issue of facial recognition systems, check out her Ted Talk, where she speaks about “fighting the coded gaze.”
In 2017, she was awarded the grand prize in the Search for Hidden Figures contest to find the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
And in 2018, she was honored as one of Forbes’ Top 50 Women in Tech. And just last year, she made the list of “World’s Greatest Leaders” by Fortune Magazine, who called her, “the conscious of the A.I. revolution.”
You get the point, Buolamwini is a doer. Or as she’s called in the tech world, a maker. She uses computer science to create, focusing on projects that serve a purpose, stepping stones for a greater good—the more social impact, the better.
Buolamwini is truly inspiring and definitely someone to keep an eye on. And to think that she’s just getting started!