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Women Played A Huge Part In The History Of Artificial Intelligent
[Image: 3062932-inline-i-wiml.jpg]

The idea was born in a hotel room.

In 2005, Hanna Wallach, a machine-learning researcher, found herself bunking with colleagues to attend the Neural Information Systems Processing (NIPS) conference. Wallach had been working in the field since 2001 and had attended numerous conferences, but this was the first time she had roomed with other women who specialized in machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that researches how computer programs can learn and grow. As a discipline, it is overwhelmingly male: Wallach estimates that only 13.5% of the entire machine learning field is female.
At the conference, Wallach and her roommates, Jennifer Wortman Vaughan, Lisa Wainer, and Angela Yu, began discussing their experiences and commiserating about the lack of female allies. "We couldn’t believe that there were four of us [at the conference]," Wallach says. She, Vaughan, and Wainer made a list of 10 others in the field and fantasized about a meetup.
The next year, in October 2006, Wallach, Vaughn, and Wainer organized the first Women in Machine Learning Conference. Attendance reached almost 100. "It was incredible to see so many machine-learning women all there in the same space," Wallach says. "None of us had experienced something like that before." (Yu attended the conference but did not cofound it.)
Over the past decade, the program has grown substantially, with attendance ballooning to more than 300. (Men are welcome at WiML, though they cannot present.) This year, the organizers had to close registration because they'd reached capacity for the venue. What began as a pie-in-the-sky dream at the NIPS conference has become an important, respected organization and support system for women in AI.

When the founders first conceived of WiML, they figured it would be a one-off, standalone session at the Grace Hopper Conference, which is an annual celebration of women in the computing industry. But as they dug into the planning and scheduling of speakers and presentations, they realized one session wouldn't be enough. WiML would have to be a full-fledged conference that brought together as many women in the field as the founders could find. When the inaugural gathering turned out to be such a success, transforming WiML into an annual event was the next logical step.
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Hanna Wallach
The concept for the WiML conferences is simple: Experts from all over the world get together to learn what their colleagues are doing. Participants give presentations about their most recent work and discuss plans for future projects. There are other parts too, including mentoring opportunities and career roundtables. But as Wallach, who now works at Microsoft as a senior researcher, explains, the focus is on "the amazing research that people are doing."
And of course, WiML is a way for female machine-learning experts to support each other.
Two years after the 2006 conference, the cofounders decided to time WiML to coincide with NIPS, where the idea for their group began. The goal was to turn the WiML gathering into a one-of-a-kind networking event: Attendees would go to WiML, meet female colleagues, and then move on to the bigger conference, ideally feeling a sense of inclusiveness as they interfaced with the industry at large. "The attendees would end up recognizing each other at the main NIPS conference," Wallach says.

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