Digesting day one of Inspirefest 2018

Day one of Inspirefest 2018 took place today in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin’s docklands with a fantastic mix of speakers inspiring professionals across every sector.

If you were unable to attend day one of Inspirefest 2018, here’s a recap on what you may have missed.

Professor Louise Kenny

Winner of ‘Woman of the Year for STEM in 2015, Professor Louise Kenny is a truly inspiring woman who was one of the leading voices in the yes campaign for the Repeal the Eight referendum. In her talk, she discussed the referendum and said: “The facts mattered and people listened properly to the stories of women in the build up to voting. The expert voices were also heard with the majority of doctors and scientists in Ireland being in favour of overturning the legislation.” She also said that Ireland is an engaged country with an intelligent electorate which gives this country great hope for the future.

Dr Ann Mooney – STEM and STEAM education for the many

Dr Ann Mooney is the dean of education in DCU and spoke about STEM and STEAM and the teachers of the future and the important role they play.

She said, “The influence teachers have on young children is immeasurable as they guide our children to become future innovators which is so often taken for granted” She also spoke about the idea of ‘play’ referencing a quote from US author Steven Johnson, Play is where innovation is born.”

She finished by saying parents place too much focus in places on learning i.e. numbers and letters and there’s not enough focus on play as it’s seen as “not real learning” but it has a huge negative impact on innovation.

Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE – STEM and STEAM for the many

Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon is a prodigy in every sense of the word. At 11, she made headlines in the national news in the UK having passed her A-level computing exam and received a master’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Oxford University aged 20.  She is renowned for helping women find work in STEM.  She stresses the importance of being inclusive with new creations “As we progress with innovation in the future, we need to be inclusive with our new creations so that they are designed for everyone.” She is also the CEO and co-founder of Stemettes, an organisation striving to create STEM role models for girls. How to make STEM for everyone?We need to be mindful of what we are consuming. Mentoring and sponsoring the next generation is vital. We need to help and guide young women and support them where we can,” said Dr. Imafidon.

Ian Harkin – Next generation: The future is now

Ian Harkin is the chief executive and co-founder of Lottie Dolls. During his speech he discussed his company’s mission, which challenges ideas around the types of toys available to our children. He pointed out that the old model based around “toxic masculinity for males and pink dolls for girls” should soon become a thing of the past. “When you go to a toy store the range available to boys is much of the time based around guns and violence. If we are to make a change to these kinds of ideas in society, we are going to need your help,” said Mr Harkin. 

Aoibheann Mangan – Next generation

Aoibheann Managan is the youngest speaker to take to the stage at Inspirefest 2018. At 11 years old, she has already achieved so much in STEM. Having got to showcase her first project and the European Parliament, a farm safety website for kids, which she created at the age of eight, she is now working on helping children overcome their fear of hospitals with Hospital Holly and Henry, a doll which children can interact with in hospital. She runs a number of workshops and is a great role model for young girls who aspire to work in STEM.

Taylor Richardson – Next generation

A 14 year old from the USA, Taylor Richardson knows what she wants in life – to become an astronaut. She is an advocate, activist, speaker and philanthropist, with Oprah Winfrey being one of her biggest followers. Having grown up in a single parent home, her mother and grandmother are her biggest “hereos”. “Once achieving the goal of becoming an astronaut, I would hope that people will look back or at me and say I brought girls and girls of colour with me,” she said. She has crowdfunded over $150,000 to fund her space camp, to buy books for children in her community to improve their knowledge of STEM and to send girls to see A Wrinkle in Time and Hidden Figures.

Tim Leberecht – Business Romantics

Tim Leberecht the co-founder of the Business Romantic Society who believes work becomes better and easier when finding a romantic working environment. “With AI taking over many roles, humans need to work more beautifully in the future because we’ll never be as efficient as a machine, but we can do things more romantically,” said Leberecht. Despite being in the most connected era ever with technology, we as people are actually the most lonely we have ever been so we must create our own intimacy. He said AirBnB is one of the most romantic companies in the world as it allows users to step into the lives of others, which is “truly romantic”.  “If you want customers to fall in love and continue to buy from you, you have to give them more than just a product – you have to give them intrigue and most importantly romance. By combining AI with our true human qualities, the future of work will become so much healthier, but it requires a human at the forefront of that,” said Leberecht.

Gerry Ellis – Artificial Intelligence as Ally for Inclusion

Gerry Ellis is an accessibility consultant and he discussed the impact technology has on people with difficulties. With over 600k (13% of population) disabled in Ireland, Mr Ellis said “the people creating and developing AI aren’t including people with disabilities in their work.” However, he is optimistic that tech and AI in the future will be built for everyone and can help anyone suffering with a disability. “Unity is our strength, but more importantly diversity is our wealth.”

Alexa Gorman – Artificial Intelligence as Ally for Inclusion

Alexa Gorman is the global vice-president of SAP.io Fund and Foundry in Europe and is working on the importance of diversity in AI. If data fed into an AI algorithm is slightly biased or flawed, the outcome will always be biased or flawed. “The machines are only as diverse as the engineers who are programming them – 26% of data jobs held in the USA and held by women.”

Bharat Krish – Why we need inclusive AI

Building on from Alexa Gorman, CEO of RefineAI, Bharat Krish says biased AI systems are everywhere and no one seems to take issue with it. One of the big problems facing the industry is that only one in five graduates in computer science are female meaning AI can’t be fully inclusive and diverse until these numbers improve. He gave four tips on how to build an inclusive AI:

  • Test and Audit
  • Fairness
  • Transparency
  • Diverse talent

Sheree Atcheson – Women in STEM

Sheree Atcheson spoke openly about dealing with unexpected responsibility throughout her entire life. Born in Sri Lanka and adopted at three weeks old by a couple from Tyrone, she is now listed as one of the most influential women in tech in the UK by ComputerWeekly. In 2013, she brought Women Who Code, the largest global non-profit dedicated to helping women excel in technical careers, to the UK at only 22 years old. She said, “I worked so hard for people to listen to me but initially coming out of college at 22, it was very difficult for people to take me seriously” Her talk became quite emotional when she discussed her humbling return to Sri Lanka to meet her biological mother and many young children who were inspired by her success. From this, she created I am Lanka. People who have Sri Lankan descent who have enjoyed successful careers in STEM are now empowering the young generation of children in disadvantaged areas of Sri Lanka.

Aine McCleary – Women in STEM

Aine McCleary is the director of distribution channels for Bank of Ireland and also the first female president of the Institute of Banking in Ireland. She spoke about how greater diversity at corporate level will led to better success but “right now we still don’t know how to get from the problem to the solution”. Within Fortune 500 companies, more CEO’s (9%) are named John or David, than the entire amount of female CEO’s (4%). Diversity is not the problem, it’s the solution,” she said.

Having paid homage to Amelia Earhart at the beginning of her talk for becoming the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, she gave the audience her tips on how to cross their own oceans:

  • Be confident
  • Be yourself
  • Take brave steps
  • Ask for help
  • Build support networks
  • Be kind to yourself