Our people and our business
Empowering women in tech
Freshfields is committed to promoting gender diversity and breaking down barriers in the tech industry. Over the past 12 months, we have run a range of initiatives and events aimed at empowering women in the tech space and promoting gender inclusivity. From our International Women’s Day celebrations to our global Female Talent for Tech programme and sponsorship of the UN’s DigitALL initiative, we are working to ensure that women's voices are heard and that their perspectives are reflected in the technology that shapes our world.
Debiasing AI for a fairer future
Technology is transforming business models around the globe across every sector. Businesses are moving up the technological development curve, either through the creation of their own digital products and services, or via acquisition of already established capabilities. New innovations are coming to market almost daily and promise to radically change the way we do business and live our lives. Despite the pervasive nature of tech and its real-life impacts, issues surrounding bias and representation demonstrate that critical flaws remain.
On International Women’s Day, we convened an expert panel event, Machine Relearning: How To Debias The Tech We Live With, discussing how the technology we use can be debiased to help advance gender parity and drive better outcomes for society. The event featured various experts who highlighted the importance of diversity in data and the workforce to prevent biased outcomes.
Dorothy Chou, Head of Public Policy at DeepMind, stressed the importance of modelling AI on true human intelligence, rather than the intelligence of a select few privileged individuals. She argued that data gaps exist in various areas, which can result in biased outcomes and affect historically excluded populations. Therefore, she emphasised the need for diverse representation in the teams building and monitoring AI systems.
Martina King, CEO of Featurespace, highlighted the importance of ensuring women can reach leadership positions in tech companies to help ensure that the products are debiased across all markets.
The speakers acknowledged that the industry is evolving quickly, making change hard to measure. Therefore, leaders in organisations that prioritise human-centric outcomes and minimise harm are critical to shaping upstream decision making. Bringing a diversity of thinkers into leadership roles was emphasised as the best way to debias the technology that increasingly shapes our lives.
Breaking barriers in the MedTech space
Through our global Female Talent for Tech initiative, we are actively working to help remove any barriers that young female talent may experience. We want to inspire women to work in business areas related to technology and play an active role in the digital transformation of our society.
In order to capture the breadth of tech, we dedicated each event to a specific topic or client. One current key growth area is MedTech. The combination of technological innovation and disruption of traditional models of care has expedited the integration of MedTech—digital health, wearables, AI-driven offerings, diagnostics, telemedicine, and other health IT solutions—in healthcare.
Having more women in MedTech leadership positions really is crucial to helping break down barriers to gender equality in the industry, providing role models and opportunities for future generations of women to succeed.
In summer 2022, we hosted an event focusing on the importance of female representation in this rapidly growing industry. Freshfields Partner Theresa Ehlen, notes that ‘despite making up a significant portion of the healthcare workforce, and patient population, women are underrepresented in MedTech leadership roles, where decisions are made about the development, design, and distribution of medical technologies.’ She adds that ‘by having more women in leadership positions in this space, businesses can ensure that the needs and perspectives of women patients are adequately addressed, and that medical technologies are developed with consideration for the diverse needs of all patients.’
Vinita Kailasanath, Partner and leader of the firm’s MedTech practice echoed this sentiment, saying ‘Women bring unique perspectives, skills, and experiences that can lead to better outcomes for patients, more innovative solutions, and a more sustainable, successful and inclusive industry overall. We’re starting to see an acceleration of companies thinking about ESG and truly prioritizing health equity, including by bringing more women and other underrepresented people into their considerations – when this happens we start to see real change.’
In conjunction with this event and the firm’s MedTech practice, we produced several of our MedTech podcasts on the growing women’s health industry and inclusivity trends in MedTech, including discussions with Gloria Seibert – Founder and CEO of Temedica, Marissa Fayer – CEO and Founder of HERhealthEQ and Jhaymee Tynan, Principal, Healthcare Services at Korn Ferry.
International Women’s Day encourages all of us to challenge gender stereotypes, promote allyship and celebrate the achievements of all those who identify as women. In 2023 we supported the United Nation's theme of ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,’ which celebrates the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.
Exploring this theme, we showcased our talented women who are leading the way in data and tech.