The most prestigious accolade awarded by AnitaB.org, the Technical Leadership Abie Award celebrates a woman who has led a team that developed a product, process, or innovation that made a notable impact on business or society. This year’s winner is Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Professor and Director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered AI Institute.
An unprecedented thought leader in AI through her revolutionary computer vision research, Fei-Fei has had transformational industry impact democratizing AI, pioneering future technological innovations, and advocating diversity in STEM and AI internationally.
Fei-Fei is the lead inventor of ImageNet, a collection of 15 million precisely labeled photographs organized into 22,000 categories, which advanced machine vision through intensive exposure to the visual world. ImageNet was by far the largest publicly available dataset at the time of its release in 2009, and its unprecedented depth and detail had a transformative effect on a class of algorithms known as Convolutional Neural Networks. Driven by the ImageNet Challenge, annual contests based on ImageNet, development of these algorithms exploded, and image recognition leapt to human-level accuracy in just a few years.
Perhaps most importantly, the effect of Fei-Fei’s work has extended far beyond computer vision. Researchers quickly recognized the power of neural networks and big data to deliver similar breakthroughs in their own fields, and it soon became common to hear talk of “the ImageNet of X” as they worked to replicate Fei-Fei’s success in domains like radiology, music, speech processing, and autonomous vehicles.
In addition to her technical contributions, Fei-Fei is a leading advocate for diversity in STEM and AI. She was the instrumental voice urging the Stanford Computer Science Department to establish its first ever department-wide diversity committee. She co-founded the Stanford AI Lab OutReach Summer program (SAILORS), an annual two-week summer camp that introduces high school girls to AI and encourages them to consider it as a career path. SAILORS evolved into the nonprofit AI4ALL in early 2017, with the goal of expanding the program internationally. In its first year, AI4ALL spread to six new campuses, including a UC Berkeley camp for low-income students, a Princeton University camp for racial minorities, a Carnegie Mellon University camp for students from rural and underrepresented groups, a Boston University camp for girls, and a camp at Canada’s Simon Fraser University for rural girls. One unique aspect of AI4ALL is its strong commitment to its alumni. In the past one year, the program has logged more than 2,000 hours of mentorship to its alumni. AI4ALL’s more than 100 alumni have together influenced more than 1,000 students in their local communities through local workshops and mini-camps.