Dr. Tanu Luke highlights leading roles of women in history of tech innovation

October 09, 2020

We teamed up with Microsoft and nonprofit Women in Voice for a virtual hackathon event.

It’s a fact: Many of the technological advances we enjoy today have been led by women. And as technology becomes increasingly central to our lives, it’s vital that continues in the future.

That’s why U.S. Bank is committed to supporting women in technology. This week, the bank worked with Microsoft and the nonprofit Women in Voice to hold a virtual workshop focusing on artificial intelligence, machine learning, sentiment analysis and chat bots. Dr. Tanu Luke, head of AI at U.S. Bank, gave a keynote presentation – focusing on the achievements of women in technology, and the importance of gender and racial diversity. The event was international, attended by women from around the world.

“Radia Perlman was known as the ‘Mother of the Internet,’” said Dr. Luke. “The women of ENIAC were the world’s first coders. Donna Dubinsky brought hand-held digital assistants to the masses. Hedy Lamarr’s invention revolutionized wireless communications and was the foundation of modern cell phones. These women had a vision to create world-changing technological breakthroughs. We’re continuing their legacy now. It’s why we held this event, and why we want to support women in getting a chance to learn and grow their skills together in this emerging field.”

Dr. Luke is a respected leader in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning. She has extensive experience in creating and designing chat bots and virtual assistants, and believes in the value of passing that knowledge on to other women, to cultivate the next level of female leaders in tech. The gender gaps that exist in technology careers – only 24% of computer scientists are women – underscore the importance of these efforts. 

The virtual workshop was open to anyone, regardless of their level of prior knowledge or experience with these technologies. In addition to hearing from Dr. Luke, attendees also participated in three different hands-on lab sessions, which used Microsoft tools to build their products.

  • The Chat Bots session showed participants how to build and publish intelligent bots that interact naturally with users using a range of services. Participants trained a cognitive model using existing documents and taught it to answer questions based on the context. Then they interacted with their bot using Skype.
  • In the Introduction to Machine Learning session, attendees saw the various types of machine learning, from classical ML to deep learning, supervised and unsupervised learning. Attendees also learned to create resources for machine learning experiments, such as data sources and compute resources, in order to build, train, and track highly accurate machine learning and deep-learning models.
  • The session on Sentiment Analysis showed attendees how to apply a machine learning model on streaming data in real-time, by doing sentiment analysis on an incoming stream of Twitter tweets.

“These labs were so valuable to the participants, and it was great to have a range of experience levels,” said Carissa Merrill, a senior experience architect at U.S. Bank and a leader in the Minneapolis chapter of Women in Voice. “These AI and ML concepts can be daunting, but we really wanted to make them approachable. We’ve already gotten a great response from people who want to learn more.”

Dr. Luke also highlighted how gender and racial diversity is an important consideration for the design of today's technology products, and studies show that companies with female leaders have better financial returns and drive innovation. Diverse teams create diverse solutions. At U.S. Bank, great digital talent is essential to delivering on our digital strategy.

Similar to its support of Girls Who Code and Girls With Impact, U.S. Bank will continue to support opportunities for more women in tech to grow their skills, network, learn, and develop themselves professionally. 

“U.S. Bank is a leader in digital tech, and we recognize the importance of hiring diverse talent and cultivating an environment where that talent can thrive and develop further,” said Stephanie Hammes-Betti, senior vice president for innovation design at U.S. Bank. “I’m proud of the way we were able to support a group of attendees who reflected that – we had attendees from not just the United States but also overseas. And I’m even more proud of what they were able to get out of it – to learn new skills, to expand their professional opportunities, to grow their networks, and do it all in a supportive, inspiring environment. And above all, to know if they want to take a next step in their careers, we’re here for them.”

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