Darshana Govind, PhD, would like to see more women researching AI.

Govind Extols Opportunities for Women Working in AI

Published January 14, 2022

story by bill bruton

Darshana Govind, PhD, extols the virtues of researching artificial intelligence (AI). She’s so enthusiastic about it, she wants to encourage more women to enter the field.

“This field is fueled by creativity and innovation, and we need as many diverse minds as possible to come up with novel solutions to critical problems.”
Darshana Govind, PhD
Data scientist at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, who earned her doctoral degree in computational cell biology, anatomy and pathology

Groundbreaking Research

“It’s challenging, because you don’t see a lot of women in the field. I’d like to see more women join STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and data science. It’s a great field to be in. It’s hard to be one female in a room full of men, so I encourage more women to join AI teams,” says Govind, who earned her doctoral degree in computational cell biology, anatomy and pathology

“Realizing the potential of AI to make a difference in people’s lives by transforming health care is what really drew me to the field. Plus, it’s exciting to be a part of groundbreaking research, especially when you’re surrounded by brilliant researchers from whom you get to learn every day,” she adds. “I’ve been able to learn a lot of new science and engineering by being part of a field with a rapid pace of development that is multidisciplinary.”

Govind conducted her research in the laboratory of her mentor, Pinaki Sarder, PhD, associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, who is a big supporter of her work.

“One of my goals at UB is not only to do research, but also to develop a workforce, and that’s very important,” Sarder says. “Darshana has done excellent, very difficult work for her PhD and has been published in a top journal.” He notes that while it’s improving, there still aren’t many women working in artificial intelligence right now.

Novel Solutions

Govind, a data scientist at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson, believes that STEM and data science — especially AI — are great fields to get into for female researchers.

“Data science and AI have enabled us to leverage petabytes of data to extract meaningful information in a variety of different fields. In health care, we are now able to mine volumes of medical data to optimize patient diagnosis and treatment response. It’s a game-changer, and we need more data scientists,” Govind says. “Unfortunately, there is currently a major gender gap in this field, with less than one-third of data scientists being women. It’s important to have women play an equal role in this industry and incorporate our voices and perspectives while developing major impactful technologies.”

“Additionally, this field is fueled by creativity and innovation, and we need as many diverse minds as possible to come up with novel solutions to critical problems,” she adds.

Encouraging Women to Enter STEM Fields

“It’s no secret that in college, men tend to outnumber women majoring in the STEM fields. Part of the problem is that gender stereotypes and a shortage of diverse role models perpetuate gender STEM gaps. In higher education, it’s of utmost importance that we increase opportunities in STEM for women,” says Allison Brashear, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Although some progress has been made in recruiting women to some fields, like biological sciences and computer science, we still have a long way to go toward narrowing the gender pay gap in STEM careers and ensuring a more diverse body of STEM researchers in higher education.”

“I commend Dr. Govind for actively encouraging more women to enter STEM fields. Now more than ever, women at the start of their educational journeys need support and access to fields where they are underrepresented,” Brashear adds.

Govind says brilliant women like Joy Buolamwini, whose TED Talk on algorithmic bias has more than 1 million views, and Fei-Fei Li, PhD, co-director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered AI Institute, are at the forefront of AI and have played a major role in encouraging more inclusion and diversity in AI. In addition, organizations like Women in Data Science and Women in AI have enabled the formation of large communities that support women and minorities in the field.

“That being said, we are still vastly underrepresented in this field, and I believe all of us have a role to play in encouraging and empowering women to close this gender gap,” Govind says.