Diversity in Computing: Saba Gul on One-Size-Fails-All Tech
The Barnard CSC is excited about our fourth Diversity in Computing Speaker, Saba Gul, technologist and entrepreneur.
One-Size-Fails-All: Building Socially Scalable Tech
Product development at tech startups often abides by the doctrine that technology is neutral with respect to geography and culture because all users are the same. When digital platforms neglect to build teams with diverse social experiences and multi-disciplinary training that can inform product impact and anticipate risks, they can cause profound harm in the world. The effects of these harms are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable users.
In this talk, Saba Gul draws from her wide-ranging work around the globe as a Pakistani, female technologist to explore the concept of ‘social scalability’—building products that carry an awareness of the social systems they will become a part of, and that can respond to society-level needs, not only user-level ones. Using her own experience building products and startups as case studies, she discusses technology and business solutions to mitigate the harm perpetuated by tech platforms and their growth-at-all-costs approach—from features and algorithms, to product design, incentive structures and startup culture. She asks the question: How can technology startups create economic and societal value without wreaking havoc on users, public infrastructure, and economies?
Saba Gul is a technologist and entrepreneur who has built digital products and startups across geographies, including the US, Europe, South Asia, and East Africa. Previously, she was the Founder & CEO of Popinjay, an e-commerce startup with a supply chain spanning Pakistan, Vietnam and China. She has been part of two teams that built the engineering core for billion-dollar companies, and helped launch companies in diverse sectors such as health, ecommerce, mobility and logistics. In 2019, she led the design and development of a first-of-its-kind, AI-driven platform for the Gates Foundation to reduce South Asian infant mortality. Saba was also a graduate researcher in the Genesis group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, where she built computational models of how humans tell, perceive, and understand stories. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a US State Department Generation Change Fellow, and speaks frequently on entrepreneurship and gender at forums like the UN, World Bank, Harvard Business School, and TEDx events. Saba was raised in Pakistan, and holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees from MIT.
As part of the Year of Science @ Barnard College, the Vagelos Computational Science Center (CSC) is excited to announce our first Diversity in Computing Speaker Series. This series will run for the 2021–2022 academic year and will feature talks from scholars and practitioners in computational fields who explore what DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) looks like in STEM.
There is an urgent need to more fully consider the ethical and social implications of computing and its applications: for example, in designing addictive social media platforms or in using AI for facial or name recognition, which can lead to housing discrimination, racial biases in job hiring, or restrictions on personal freedoms through public and private surveillance.
To better understand how to counter these biases, this series rethinks STEM disciplines from the inside out. We invite one leader in a STEM field every month to speak about the work they are doing to diversify and broaden inclusion in their fields by either sharing their research, their experiences and initiatives in industry or academia, or their thoughts on how power structures within computing disciplines should be transformed to create more equitable systems.
This talk will take place online. A Zoom link will be sent to registrants shortly before the event.