Championing the rights of under-represented groups in computational intelligence

Posted on June 22, 2022

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Professor Nelishia Pillay has been appointed to chair the Women in Computational Intelligence (WCI) subcommittee of the global Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computational Intelligence Society (CIS). Prof Pillay is a former Head of the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology at UP and is Chairholder of the South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Machine Learning for Sustainable Development in the Faculty.

The commitment to gender diversity is an important feature of the activities of the IEEE CIS. As such, it pledges to work towards gender-diversified panels at all meetings, conferences and events of the CIS. It supports the inclusion of a diverse set of speakers, which could lead to more creative, interesting and representative panels. The WCI subcommittee develops, promotes, organises and runs activities directed at the achievement of gender diversity within the Institute.

According to Prof Pillay, the subcommittee is devoted to meeting the needs of the greater community of women in computational intelligence by sharing ideas and opportunities, answering questions and addressing any other concerns women may have in their professional interactions. “The impact women are making in the field of computational intelligence is on an upward trajectory,” says Prof Pillay. “This can be seen in the increasing number of leadership roles played by women, including being invited to deliver keynote presentations and to serve as general conference chairs at computational intelligence conferences.”

As Chair of the WIC subcommittee, she is promoting the use of computational intelligence to solve problems related to equity, diversity and inclusion. An IEEE taskforce has been established to promote research in this area. The subcommittee does not just focus on women, but also advocates for the recognition of other under-represented groups in computational intelligence. It therefore promotes the inclusion of people from different cultures and languages, and people with disabilities, among other under-represented communities in the field.

At the upcoming WCCI 2022 IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence to be held in Padova, Italy, from 18 to 23 July 2022, she will be hosting a reception for women in computational intelligence. This is considered to be the world’s most influential computational intelligence congress and will feature some inspirational speakers. It will have a good representation of presenters from all sectors of society, including women. It includes a panel discussion on the role of diversity and inclusion in responsible technological innovation, which Prof Pillay will chair. As a member of the organising committee, she also serves as Publication Chair of this congress.

- Author Estie Powell

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