10 Powerful Talks by Women in Data Science [Women’s Day Special!]

Pranav Dar 06 Mar, 2020 • 4 min read

Happy Women’s Day to all the wonderful, curious, and passionate women out there!

Analytics Vidhya is celebrating the power of women in data science as Women’s Day approaches. Each year we put together a list of the top women in data science who are blazing a trail (and continue to do so) for others to follow. These women leaders are inspiring both women AND men with their amazing efforts in this field.

Each year we’re seeing a greater influx of women in data science. While that is a promising trend and one we hope continues in 2020 and beyond, we feel there are far more women who have the potential to break into this field. Maybe you’re looking for the first career break, or a push to take that leap of faith into data science.

So this year, we’ve handpicked 10 powerful and inspiring talks by women in data science! These talks cover a broad range of topics, from healthcare to bias. These women leaders are supreme examples of the power of women and the change they have brought about in the world around us, using data science.

Again, happy women’s day and do share your favorite talk or story in the comments section below the article!

We are inviting all women to participate in the Women-in-the-loop: Data Science Hackathon by Bain and Company! Go ahead and register yourself to compete and stand a chance to win lucrative prizes.


1. Dr. Geetha Manjunath – Using Technology to Save Lives [DataHack Summit 2019]

Dr. Geetha Manjunath is the Founder, CEO, and CTO of NIRAMAI, a deep tech startup developing a novel solution for detecting early-stage breast cancer. She has over 25 years of experience in IT research and has led many innovative projects in Healthcare and Transportation, especially catering to Emerging Market needs.

In this keynote at DataHack Summit 2019, Dr. Geetha shares her experience developing a novel AI-based solution for detecting breast cancer, and the story of the most awarded startup NIRAMAI, which is taking the tech solution to market.


2. Dina Katabi – A New Way to Monitor Vital Signs

I’m a big fan of this talk (and the computer vision model behind it). In this mind-blowing talk and demo, Dina Katabi previews a system that captures the reflections of signals like Wi-Fi as they bounce off people, creating a reliable record of vitals for healthcare workers and patients.

Very impressive use of data science!



3. Joy Buolamwini – How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms

This is a powerful, powerful talk. We have a serious problem of bias in the datasets we use, which consequently make our machine learning models biased. These aren’t just numbers we’re working with, right? The data points reflect human behavior and impact human lives.

In this talk, Joy Buolamwini, an MIT graduate student, talks about the need for accountability in coding as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.



4. Dina Zielinski – How We Can Store Digital Data in DNA

A really fascinating talk that’ll draw you in from the get-go. Every method of storing data eventually becomes obsolete. Think about floppy disks and thumb drives. They feel like products of a bygone era!

Dina Zielinski, a Bioinformatician, shares the science behind a solution that’s been around for a few billion years: DNA. Yep, you read that correctly.



5. Diane Greene, Fei-Fei Li, Fernanda Viegas, Francoise Beaufays, Daphne Koller – Past, Present and Future of AI / Machine Learning

What a line-up on the top women in data science! This is a slightly older panel discussion (2017) but I loved the topics covered. The range of knowledge these women leaders bring to the panel is exemplary.

The panel discussion features these top machine learning experts discussing their cutting-edge research and the opportunities they see ahead.



6. Janelle Shane – The Danger of AI is Weirder Thank you Think

“The danger of artificial intelligence isn’t that it’s going to rebel against us, but that it’s going to do exactly what we ask it to do.”

Those are some powerful words by AI researcher Janelle Shane. Janelle shares the weird, sometimes alarming antics of AI algorithms as it tries to solve human problems, like creating new ice cream flavors or recognizing cars on the road. A thought-provoking talk.



7. Rachel Thomas – Artificial Intelligence Needs All of Us

How could we ever complete a women in data science list without including Rachel Thomas? Rachel is a deep learning researcher and the co-founder of fast.ai (along with Jeremy Howard). She has done some amazing world in the field and has championed the cause of mitigating bias in AI.

This talk, Rachel explains why Artificial Intelligence should be accessible to all of us, even without a math background. I can see a lot of you nodding your heads in agreement!



8. Fei-Fei Li – How We Teach Computers to Understand Pictures

This talk is as relevant today as it was when Fei-Fei Li delivered it in 2016. It is the go-to talk if you want to make a non-technical person understand how computer vision works.

Fei-Fei Li is a truly inspirational figure in the data science space (honestly, in any industry!). She has won multiple awards for her work during her career and has led ground-breaking research at Google and Stanford (among other organizations).



9. Emily Glassberg Sands – Using Data to Power Education

Curious how Coursera recommends the courses it does? Almost all of us have taken a course (or more) from Coursera at some point. It’s a wonderful learning platform that has spawned thousands of careers in the industry.

Emily Glassberg Sands, the head of Data Science at Coursera, talks here about using the power of data to power education. I also encourage you to check out the DataHack Radio podcast with Emily where she goes into detail about how Coursera works and the data science team she heads.



10. Caitlin Smallwood – How Netflix Data Science Powers Global Entertainment

Caitlin Smallwood is the VP, Data Science and Engineering at Netflix. I’ve always been curious about how Netflix uses data science to power everything it does, from recommending movies and TV series to deciding which thumbnails to show each user.

In this talk by Caitlin at Databricks, she highlights some of Netflix’s core data science strategies and applications involving predictive models & algorithms, experimentation, and analytics.



End Notes

We would love to hear from all the women in the Analytics Vidhya community about their journey into data science. Do connect with us below and share your story – we will get in touch with you about getting that out there to our community!

And once again – happy women’s day!

Pranav Dar 06 Mar 2020

Senior Editor at Analytics Vidhya. Data visualization practitioner who loves reading and delving deeper into the data science and machine learning arts. Always looking for new ways to improve processes using ML and AI.

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