Gender inclusion in AI and Supercomputing R&D

Priyanka Sharma, with a work experience of around 24 years that spans Industry, Academia, and Research, specializes in leading AI-enabled system design, deve- lopment, and deployment using core technologies involving high-performance computing, machine learning, and deep learning. She is also the Vice Chairman (Technical) of IEEE Industrial Electronics, IEEE Industry Applications, and IEEE Power Electronics Society – Gujarat Section. She is an active member of various National Level Subject Expert committees (for Engi- neering and AI Projects) of some of the premier R&D project funding schemes of the Department of Science and Technology under the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In conversation with Charulatha, Correspondent, Siliconindia magazine. Priyanka shares her views about how gender diversity, can enhance innovation and problem-solving in sustainability projects and some strategies for breaking down stereotypes and biases that can discourage female candidates from pursuing STEM as a successful career opportunity.

The next wave of business transformation will impact creative business processes including research, development, and design

The Intersection of Technological Advancements, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM, and Their Role in Sustaining Digital Transformation in the Semiconductor Industry

I think we should be thankful for existing in an era that is witnessing the fastest technological revolutions of all times. The rate at which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming pervasive in almost every domain of human existence is phenomenal. We can also say that COVID has surely been the biggest catalyst for this change and accelerated the acceptance of AI in almost varied application domains. However, having said this, it’s also important to note that, the more we drive applications that are AI enabled, the more challenging is our responsibility to align it with environmental and sustainable aspects; be it in decision support systems or predictive analytics systems, or in object classification or related to generative AI. The biases in AI need to be checked more seriously and strategically, than ever before. Diversity inclusion in professionals, who are contributing to AI domain or in STEM areas becomes very important, not only from societal perspective, but from a holistic addressal of the decision making outcomes of these AI algorithms.

It’s a matter of concern that, as per one of the recent surveys of World Economic Forum, women still form just 24% of the AI and Data Science professionals worldwide. And talking about women in more specialized domains like AI enabled semiconductors, AI Accelerators, High performance Computing (HPC), the picture is more alarming. We really need to work towards improving this ratio and encourage, enable, and empower more women in leadership positions and various other levels of the processional task force related to AI and the semiconductor industry.

However, having said this, it is also worth realizing that, in terms of diversity inclusion, India is still seeing a progressive trend as compared to many other Asian countries. And in the future, we are expecting to see a relatively better balance, with the current progressive trend of Women in STEM. Although the trend is positively growing, but it still falls short of the global benchmarks, and hence, we can say that we have a tremendous room for improvement. While addressing underrepresentation is important, bridging the gender gap will not only bolster sustainable tech-enabled growth and innovation but is also vital for the national economy.

Unlocking the Power of Gender Diversity: Fueling Innovation and Problem-Solving in Sustainability Projects

When you have women professional working in core areas of STEM, and that too in leadership roles, it has an outsized impact on women and girls, especially young college graduates entering the field who want to make a difference through their contributions. For instance, the inclusion of women in the AI, HPC and Deep learning domain not only provides a healthy balance with diverse viewpoints and unified efforts in data management, but also turbocharges innovation.

The next wave of business transformation will impact creative business processes including research, development, and design. People are an intrinsic part of our technological innovation. The future of AI is less artificial and more humanlike. It’s important that a diverse continuum of people work closely with AI models, towards enhancing learning, productivity, and satisfaction to bring out human touch in technology.

At Fujitsu, we are focused on human centric approach towards sustainable digital transformation. People are essential to the way we work towards innovating and delivering value through cutting edge technology. Our mission is to create an inclusive environment that enables our people to feel they truly belong and be completely themselves.

I represent the MONAKA Supercomputing (HPC+AI) R&D Center of Fujitsu Research of India (FRIPL). FRIPL is the largest R&D unit of Fujitsu, that is based outside Japan. MONAKA is a 2 nm Arm CPU slated to be launched in 2027 and will focus majorly on energy efficient solution to meet the carbon neutrality goals for a green data centre super-computing facility. Fujitsu designs its own microarchitecture which is a key factor for CPU performance and power efficiency. This technology made it possible for the supercomputer Fugaku to achieve the world’s highest levels of performance and energy efficiency. Fujitsu’s MONAKA is aligned to enable next gen AI application development ecosystem through high end energy efficient compute. Our R&D Unit in India works majorly at AI and Deep Learning Framework Level of Software Engineering for the MONAKA Processor. At FRIPL, we are working towards creating a more diverse ecosystem to come up with cutting edge innovations in our processor technology.

"In terms of diversity inclusion, India is still seeing a progressive trend as compared to many other Asian countries"

The current pace of technological growth and how important do you think its to inspire and mentor young women to succeed in STEM

Dr. Priyanka Sharma: That’s a great question – India is a fast-developing nation and many of our young population are raring to enable themselves to establish a firm footing in the current technological revolution. But one must understand that the readiness for contributions in Deep Tech like AI, HPC+AI based Processor Technology, semi-conductor domain is not easy and requires a thorough knowledge in fundamentals related to mathematics, statistics, physics, algorithm building, hardware, AI frameworks, system integrations are core levels. Hence, mentoring becomes a very important part of overcoming the barriers and its also crucial for the youngsters, especially for women who are considering a career in technology.

And, like I always say, excellence is a journey of meandering pathways, and the traversal of the destination is always a NP hard problem (Scientific terminology Non polynomial time and it implies there is no one definite solution to a problem). No one solution, or story can be the perfect shot to hit the goal, but the buzz of the flowing wind does ring the wind chimes to spread the melody and inspire!!

Some strategies for breaking down stereotypes and biases that can discourage female candidates from pursuing STEM as a successful career opportunity

I think it’s important to educate our girls to have an open approach to learning things. Very often I have seen that, we bind them too much into do’s and donts. That’s not right. Let them experiment and develop their approach of looking at things and tracing an upcoming trend that they want to pursue. Guide them, mentor them, don’t dictate them always to do what you feel is right. Experimentation is the basis of innovation. So, in order to inculcate an open innovation ecosystem, it's important that we let them explore and evolve like how the reinforcement learning algorithms in AI works.

The modern AI algorithms are human inspired. And I feel it’s also important for humans to holistically follow the approach that has gone to successfully training deep AI models to train younger generation to adapt and contribute for a progressive society.

FRIPL's Integration of Core R&D in HPC with a Focus on Diversity Inclusion and Sustainability Goals

Together we are driving towards an exciting world of intelligent automation in diverse domains. The future will unravel many solutions to complicated problems through AI and several other cutting-edge technologies. AI is an enabler for this change. And what we are doing at Fujitsu is to contribute towards providing a self-sustained, energy efficient platform to support the incubation of AI based developments through our energy efficient processors. Fujitsu has been known for its game changing processors for many decades. And with MONAKA, which is a 2nm Arm based CPU, we are trying to work towards an energy efficient solution towards carbon neutrality.

We would surely want to work for a stronger collaboration across diverse communities, to understand various pain points of the current technological revolution and maximize the usefulness of our backend compute for a sustainable digital transformation. Together we need to work towards a common goal and hence diversity inclusion in our task force is the key to driving our initiatives for coming up with MONAKA based green data-center supercomputing facility.