When a panel of five men and two women took the stage at the annual OurCrowd Summit in Jerusalem last year to discuss the hype around artificial intelligence (AI), they accomplished the trifecta that is often hard to find at conferences: They provided a session that was informative, interesting, AND entertaining.

They did it by dissecting the good (better customer and work experiences), the bad (black boxes), and the ugly (bias) around AI and its impact. As they talked about the importance of large data sets from a variety of sources and shared different perspectives on topics that heated the conversation, the panel itself became an example of why numbers and diversity matter.

Large numbers and diversity matter even more now as AI moves beyond the hype and more businesses in the tech and traditional sectors transition to being model-based with machine learning algorithms at the core.

In late 2018 it was revealed that Amazon dropped its AI-powered internal recruiting tool because it was biased in favor of male candidates. In November 2019, news broke that Goldman Sachs was being investigated for sex discrimination after claims were made that its credit algorithm used for Apple Card is sexist. These are just two gender-related bias examples and barely touch other biases, such as race.

The main culprit for bias is a lack of diversity on the teams developing these solutions, which remain overwhelmingly white and male.

The issue has become so significant that CIOs in the US have made diversifying their tech teams a priority in 2020. A number of investment funds, including WestRiver Group (WRG) in Seattle, are also increasingly paying attention and investing in diverse management teams as a business advantage.

In Israel, several new initiatives have been launched in recent years by the government, non-profit organizations, and companies to support all diversity in the tech sector.

Power in Diversity, an initiative launched by Israeli investment firm Vintage Investment Partners, is working with companies to address these issues head on in Israel’s tech sector. For example, it recently created a workshop for Tel Aviv-based Yotpo’s R&D department, which hired three tech teams of Haredi women last year, to address and challenge differences and stereotypes to help make the work environment more inclusive.

Kaltura, a video technology company co-founded by serial entrepreneur Michal Tsur, announced its pledge in 2019 to work towards increasing female leadership at the company to 50% by 2024. It will also work to increase the number of female employees at all levels of the company to 50% in that time frame.

So, what’s the lesson to keep in mind at OurCrowd Summit 2020? The diverse makeup of the AI panel last year was able to move the discussion past all the hype and to address serious issues, like explainable AI, and paint a more complete picture of AI. A picture that has played out throughout the past year.

These broader perspectives and insights into what’s happening is something to keep in mind at the conference this year, especially for sessions that don’t have a diverse lineup of speakers, such as the session on how AI is transforming industries, and as a result may not show the full picture, or, put another way, all the data points.

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