Joy Buolamwini

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Joy Buolamwini
Joy Buolamwini - Wikimania 2018 01.jpg
Joy Buolamwini at Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town
EducationCordova High School
Alma materGeorgia Institute of Technology (BSc)
University of Oxford (MSc)[1]
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MS)
Known forAlgorithmic Justice
AwardsRhodes Scholarship
Fulbright Fellow
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Algorithmic bias
InstitutionsMIT Media Lab
ThesisGender shades : intersectional phenotypic and demographic evaluation of face datasets and gender classifiers (2017, Master's)
Doctoral advisorEthan Zuckerman[2]

Joy Adowaa Buolamwini is a Ghanaian-American computer scientist and digital activist based at the MIT Media Lab. She founded the Algorithmic Justice League, an organisation that looks to challenge bias in decision making software.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Buolamwini was born in Canada, grew up in Mississippi and attended Cordova High School.[4] At age 9, she was inspired by Kismet, the MIT robot, and taught herself XHTML, JavaScript and PHP.[5][6][7] She was a competitive pole vaulter.[8]

As an undergraduate, Buolamwini studied computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she researched health informatics.[9] Buolamwini graduated as a Stamps President's Scholar from Georgia Tech in 2012,[10] and was the youngest finalist of the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize in 2009.[11]

Buolamwini is a Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright fellow, a Stamps scholar, an Astronaut Scholar and an Anita Borg Institute scholar.[12] As a Rhodes Scholar, she studied learning and technology at the University of Oxford.[1][13] During her scholarship she took part in the first formal Service Year, working on community focused projects.[13][14] She was awarded a Master's Degree from MIT in 2017 for research supervised by Ethan Zuckerman.[2]

Career and research[edit]

In 2011, she teamed with the Trachoma program at Carter Center, to develop an Android-based assessment system for Ethiopia and aide eradication of the disease worldwide.[15][6]

Joy Buolamwini at Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town

As a Fulbright fellow, in 2013 Buolamwini worked with local computer scientists in Zambia to empower Zambian youth to become technology creators.[16] On September 14, 2016 Buolamwini appeared at the White House summit on Computer Science for All.[17][18]

She is a researcher at the MIT Media Lab, where she identifies bias in algorithms and develops practices for accountability during their design;[19] at the lab, Buolamwini is a member of Ethan Zuckerman's Center for Civic Media group.[20][21] During her research, Buolamwini showed facial recognition systems 1,000 faces and asked them to identify whether faces were male or female, she found that software found it hard to identify dark-skinned women.[22][23] Her project, Gender Shades, has attracted significant media attention and become part of her MIT thesis.[2][24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31] Her 2018 paper Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification,[citation needed] prompted responses from IBM and Microsoft, who swiftly improved their software.[32][33] She also created the Aspire Mirror, a device that lets you see a reflection of yourself based on what inspires you.[34] Her program, Algorithmic Justice League, aims to highlight the bias in code that can lead to discrimination of underrepresented groups.[35] She has created two films, 'Code4Rights' and 'Algorithmic Justice League: Unmasking Bias'.[36][37] She is Chief Technology Officer for Techturized Inc, a haircare technology company.[9]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2017, Buolamwini was awarded the grand prize in the professional category in the Search for Hidden Figures contest, tied to the release of the film Hidden Figures in December 2016.[38] The contest, sponsored by PepsiCo and 21st Century Fox, was intended to "help uncover the next generation of female leaders in science, technology, engineering and math," [39][40] and attracted 7,300 submissions from young women across the United States.[10]

Buolamwini delivered a TEDx talk at Beacon Street entitled How I'm fighting bias in algorithms.[41][42][43] In 2018 she appeared on TED Radio Hour.[44] She was featured on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls in 2018.[4] Fast Company magazine listed her as one of four "design heroes who are defending democracy online".[45] She was listed as one of BBC's 100 Women in 2018.[46] In 2018 she was featured among "America's Top 50 Women In Tech" by Forbes.[47]

Personal life[edit]

Buolamwini has lived in Ghana, Barcelona, Memphis and Atlanta.[11]


  1. ^ a b Buolamwini, Joy Adowaa (2014). Increasing participation in graduate level computer science education : a case study of the Georgia Institute of Technology's master of computer science. (MSc thesis). University of Oxford. OCLC 908967245.
  2. ^ a b c Buolamwini, Joy Adowaa (2017). Gender shades : intersectional phenotypic and demographic evaluation of face datasets and gender classifiers. (PhD thesis). MIT. hdl:1721.1/114068. OCLC 1026503582. Free to read
  3. ^ Joy Official website Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ a b "The Future of Computer Science and Tech: 12 Young Women to Watch — Part 2". Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. 2018-02-19. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  5. ^ "TechDrawl Interviews GT Stamps President's Scholar, Joy Buolamwini". Vimeo. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  6. ^ a b "Joy Buolamwini |". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  7. ^ "Meet The Digital Activist That's Taking Human Prejudice Out of Our Machines". 2017-06-26. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  8. ^ "CHS Pole Vaulting - Joy Buolamwini". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  9. ^ a b "Tech Startup of The Week: Techturized Wins With Hair Care Company". Black Enterprise. 2013-03-15. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  10. ^ a b "Joy Buolamwini wins national contest for her work fighting bias in machine learning". MIT News. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  11. ^ a b "Rhodes Scholar Shows 'Compassion through Computation'". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  12. ^ "Filmmakers Collaborative | Profile". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  13. ^ a b "Joy Buolamwini Profile". The Rhodes Project. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  14. ^ "Oxford Launchpad: Confessions of an Entrepreneur: Joy Buolamwini | Enterprising Oxford". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  15. ^ "Scholar Spotlight: Joy Buolamwini | Astronaut Scholarship Foundation". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  16. ^ ZamrizeMedia (2013-04-28), Joy Buolamwini | Fulbright Fellow 2013 | Zambia, retrieved 2018-03-24
  17. ^ Buolamwini, Joy (2016-09-15). "#CSForAll Tribute to Seymour Papert". MIT MEDIA LAB. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  18. ^ Joy Buolamwini (2016-09-15), Seymour Papert - #CSForAll Tribute - Joy Buolamwini, retrieved 2018-03-24
  19. ^ "Project Overview ‹ Algorithmic Justice League – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  20. ^ "interview: joy buolamwini | MIT Admissions". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  21. ^ "Group People ‹ Civic Media – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  22. ^ Olson, Parmy. "Racist, Sexist AI Could Be A Bigger Problem Than Lost Jobs". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  23. ^ "Photo Algorithms ID White Men Fine—Black Women, Not So Much". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  24. ^ Kleinman, Zoe (2017-04-14). "Is artificial intelligence racist?". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  25. ^ "Artificial Intelligence Can Be as Biased as Humans—But It Doesn't Have to Be | NOVA Next". NOVA Next. 2017-10-25. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  26. ^ rel=, Joy Buolamwini | Timnit Gebru /> <link. "Gender Shades". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  27. ^ Lohr, Steve (2018-02-09). "Facial Recognition Is Accurate, if You're a White Guy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  28. ^ "Facial recognition software is biased towards white men, researcher finds". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  29. ^ "Facial-recognition technology works best if you're a white guy, study says". The Seattle Times. 2018-02-18. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  30. ^ "MIT Researcher: AI Has a Race Problem, and We Need to Fix It". Boston Magazine. 2018-02-23. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  31. ^ "Study demonstrates gender and skin-type bias in commercial artificial-intelligence systems - Tech Explorist". Tech Explorist. 2018-02-12. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  32. ^ "Mitigating Bias in Artificial Intelligence (AI) Models -- IBM Research". 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  33. ^ "Gender Shades: Intersectional Accuracy Disparities in Commercial Gender Classification" (PDF). Proceedings of Machine Learning Research. 2018. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  34. ^ "Aspire Mirror". Aspire Mirror. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  35. ^ International, Youth Radio-- Youth Media (2017-02-28). "A Search For 'Hidden Figures' Finds Joy". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  36. ^ "Filmmakers Collaborative | Code4Rights". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  37. ^ "Filmmakers Collaborative | Algorithmic Justice League: Unmasking Bias". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  38. ^ "Hidden No More: STEM Spotlight Shines On 'Hidden Figures' Like MIT's Joy Buolamwini". Youth Radio. 2017-02-27. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  39. ^ PepsiCo (2017-01-12), Search for Hidden Figures Grand Prize Winner - Joy Buolamwini, retrieved 2018-03-24
  40. ^ ""Hidden Figures" Inspires A Scholarship Contest For Minority STEM Aspirants". Fast Company. 2017-01-19. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  41. ^ "Speaker Joy Buolamwini: How I'm Fighting Bias in Algorithms". Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  42. ^ Buolamwini, Joy. "How I'm fighting bias in algorithms – MIT Media Lab". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  43. ^ TED (2017-03-29), How I'm fighting bias in algorithms | Joy Buolamwini, retrieved 2018-03-24
  44. ^ Joy Buolamwini: How Does Facial Recognition Software See Skin Color?, retrieved 2018-03-24
  45. ^ Schwab, Katharine, Meet 4 design heroes who are defending democracy online, Fast Company Magazine, retrieved 2018-07-21
  46. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 2018-11-19. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  47. ^ "Anne Aaron". Forbes.