SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit Set to Inspire, Engage

At the Nov. 10 SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit, presented by Women in Technology Hollywood (WiTH), attendees will be treated to a day of insights around diversity, leadership, and technology issues in the industry, especially as it relates to the impacts of the pandemic.

Designed to inform, engage, and inspire attendees, the closed-door event will feature presentations and breakout sessions tackling the impact of bias, both human and algorithmic.

The 2020 edition of the SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit saw more than 250 attendees, with more than 70 percent representing the media and entertainment industry and tech-adjacent companies.

Here’s a look at what attendees can expect:

• Following welcome remarks by WiTH president Christina Aguilera, secretary Nina Skorus-Neely, and Guy Finley, president of MESA and executive director of WiTH, Mount Saint Mary’s University’s Kimberly Kenny, associate VP of external relations and institutional advancement, will deliver the opening keynote of the day’s event: “State of the Union – Women in the Workplace.”

For a decade now the Los Angeles university has produced an annual “Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California”, with the intent of providing a complete picture on where women and girls are thriving and what obstacles they continue to face.

Kenny will provide highlights from the research on how the pandemic has impacted women and girls and offer recommendations to consider for attendees’ own diversity programs. Following her keynote, she’ll site down with a major organization to discuss their evolving diversity journey.

The keynote will be followed by a fireside chat with Angela Cooper, GM of customer success and media and entertainment for Microsoft’s west region, and Jeanne-Marie Ryan, head of people and culture for Fair Trade USA.

• Author and technologist Tobias Baer will offer insights on a very modern issue: how the use of artificial intelligence needs to take into account our increasingly diverse world. His presentation — “AI & Algorithmic Bias: Information Technology Ethics” — will dive into how modern AI applications can’t mirror the norms of the past and perpetuate diversity related challenges, when applying algorithms to business problems. He’ll look at the social, cultural and ethical challenges in the application of AI, and share how there’s an opportunity to use algorithms as agents of change.

• Carrie Yury, group design director and research practice lead for design and innovation consultancy company Fjord, will share a message with attendees: nowadays, if you’re a brand, user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) are no longer enough to connect with consumers. Her presentation — “Beyond Customer Experience: Embracing the Business of Experience” — will show how the events of the past year-plus has upended consumer mindsets and behaviors, with people searching for things that embody more purpose and meaning in their lives. That means a brand’s vision now plays a crucial role in its growth.

• Kellie Hodge, lead design researcher for Sutherland Labs, will ask what seems like a simple question: who exactly are we designing for?

“At Sutherland Labs, we have been thinking about the ways in which certain types of people and facets of experience are over-represented in research and design practice, to the exclusion of others,” Hodge said. “The good news is that we can drastically improve inclusion through quite simple measures. And the even better news is that we can learn much from the ingenuity of people who have traditionally been underserved by industry. As we see it, if someone is putting a product to work for them despite that it wasn’t designed with them in mind, they have a use case worth understanding.”

Her presentation will ask what does more inclusive technology offer all of us? Through a series of vignettes from the field, she’ll examine how exclusion can become embedded in practice optimized for tight release schedules and make people wary of risk. Hodge will share what practitioners, strategists and leaders in the experience industry can do about that.

Attendees will have a collection of four breakout tracks of sessions to choose from beginning at 11 a.m. PT.

Track 1: Algorithmic Bias

The advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies continues to open up a world of new opportunities and abilities across multiple industries. Yet, along with new capabilities comes a new set of responsibilities for those who employ AI and ML.

That’s according to Christine Meinders, founder of Feminist.AI, an endeavor created to make AI for everyone, especially when it comes to amplifying underserved and unheard voices.

She’ll detail the social implications of emerging technologies, and how designers can imagine an alternative process and user experience for creating AI/ML products to include and credit more voices.

By pairing the social and technical at the beginning, the design tool and methodology the Feminist.AI project poieto acknowledges bias in every step of development. Additionally, poieto challenges technical allowances to provide for priorities like privacy and consent, a nuanced data-sharing model, and attribution. Additionally, Feminist.AI members will discuss previous projects, highlighting specific socio-technical design approaches; discuss lived experiences; and design explorations centering on biases.

Track 2: Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility

in the breakout session “Co-Creating an Inclusive and Accessible Future,” Alexia Clayborne, director of inclusion and accessibility for Microsoft’s events, studios and marketing community, will look at the definitions of inclusion and accessibility when it comes to using a shared language, examine Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility standards, and highlight why it’s key to co-create the end-to-end design of these standards with the accessibility community.

In “Language of Diversity” Natalie Martin, VP of growth and development for Premiere Digital, and iAsia Brown, co-chair, of the WiTH DEIAB Committee and a data and AI specialist with Microsoft, will help attendees better understand the subtle language describing our diverse communities and the challenges they face.

Track 3: Customer Experience

• “Design for Inclusion” will see Sutherland’s Hodge and Bernadette Irizarry, VP of product and design, platform experience, for Sony Pictures Entertainment, discuss emerging issues in design for inclusion.

Diverse representation in entertainment programming matters more than ever before, and content creators and distributors are constantly on the lookout for new tools to help answer pressing questions that impact their businesses, including to what degree are different identity groups including gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation featured in content? In the breakout session “A Data-Driven Approach to Assessing Diversity in Content,” Halleh Kianfar, director of product management for Gracenote, will share new approaches to assessing diversity in content via her company’s Gracenote Inclusion Analytics.

Track 4: Wellness for Your Career

The “Nourish Your Brain Workshop” will see Gemi Bertran, CEO and founder of the Nourish the Brain Institute, share what foods, superfoods and habits can make the biggest impact in nourishing your brain and improving your overall health. There are all kinds of injuries and issues that can cause real problems in our mental/brain health. Other things that don’t see harmful, such as food and specific behaviors, can highjack the brain and redefine health forever. Likewise, food and behaviors can restore brain and mental health forever at the same time extending lifespan.

• Michele Spitz of Woman of Her Word — a media producer, voiceover artist, and longtime philanthropist advocating for media accessibility and disability inclusion and awareness — will deliver the closing keynote of the event: “Broadening Your Diversity Impact.”

Her presentation will stress how equal audience access ensures entertainment and information remains an engaging, collective experience, one shared by all audiences on all exhibition and distribution platforms.

“As we continuously advance towards an evolving future and developing mindset, we aspire to consistently accommodate all communities inclusive of those individuals with language, cognitive, physical, hearing and visual differences,” Spitz said. “We become an ideal world when we simultaneously integrate our efforts, implementation and outreach yielding a universally beneficial outcome for all people.”

• Following closing remarks, Solliance CEO Zoiner Tejada, and GM of media George Howell, will present a movie screening of “Coded Bias,” which follows M.I.T. Media Lab computer scientist Joy Buolamwini, along with data scientists, mathematicians, and watchdog groups from all over the world, as they fight to expose the discrimination within algorithms now prevalent across all spheres of daily life. They’ll take part in a panel Q&A following the screening.

The SoCal Women’s Leadership Summit is presented by Microsoft and sponsored by Sutherland, Premiere Digital, Solliance and Converge Technology Solutions.

To register click HERE.