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IBM Recognizes 40 Innovative Female Leaders in Annual Women Leaders in AI Program

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IBM has recognized 40 innovative female business leaders today as part of the company’s annual Women Leaders in AI program. The women come from 18 different countries and use IBM Watson to help advance industries. 

This year, the women leaders include names from The Clorox Company, City of Austin, The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, EY, Ford Motor Company, Servicenow, and more.

According to a newly released study from the IBM Institute for Business Value that surveyed business professionals, 70 percent of global businesses still do not consider gender equality a top priority despite the recent raise in awareness and developments. At the same time, the study found that fewer women surveyed are in the senior vice president, vice president, director, and manager roles this year compared to 2019.

Women Leaders in AI Program

IBM’s Women Leaders in AI Program was first created in 2019 to help facilitate diverse participation in the field. This year’s women leaders have helped optimize their organizations with better predictions, automated processes, and new efficiencies through the use of natural language processing (NLP), automation, and artificial intelligence. 

Ritika Gunnar is Vice President at Expert Labs, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software. 

“As AI adoption continues to accelerate, we believe that diverse teams are needed to help build and implement trustworthy AI that can help mitigate bias and deliver explainable outcomes,” said Gunnar. “Today, we are sharing the incredible stories of 40 women who are paving the way forward in AI for business and impacting how people work and live. Working with clients in an era of global workplace and workforce change, we see the need for women and diverse teams working at the forefront of AI.”

According to IBM, the leaders were selected “based upon the ways they are using AI as a transformation agent to help drive results for their organizations and the employees, customers and citizens they serve.”

Some of the specific examples include:

  • President and CEO of The Ad Council, Lisa Sherman, used IBM Watson Advertising Accelerator to improve the effectiveness of the Love Has No Labels “Fight for Freedom” initiative.
  • Manoela Morais, Chimka Munkhbayar and Helen Tsai developed Agrolly, a solution that empowers independent farmers with crop forecasts.
  • Poonam Verma, who oversees The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation’s (DTCC) critical cyber security services function, used IBM services to advance the cyber detection capabilities of the organization.
  • Ekaterina Ostankova, along with her team at Lloyds Banking Group, used IBM Watson to help design and define a solution for the recent rise in customer service calls.
  • Annie Shu, Manager of Strategy and Innovation at Australian bank Westpac, used IBM Watson to help develop an avatar that helps teenagers find their first job opportunities.

2021 IBM Women Leaders in AI Honorees

Here is a look at this year’s list of honorees: 

  • Joan Francy, CEO, Admed Inc (United States)
  • Chimka Munkhbayar, Co-founder, Agrolly (Mongolia)
  • Manoela Morais, CEO and Co-founder, Agrolly (Brazil)
  • Helen Tsai, Web Developer Lead and Co-founder, Agrolly (Mongolia)
  • Airei Soh, Marketing IT Strategy and Planning, All Nippon Airways (Japan)
  • Leah Karlin, Director of Machine Learning and Data Engineering, At Point of Care (United States)
  • Fella Benaziza, UX Designer Consultant, Capgemini France (France)
  • Elisabetta Burei, BRM Technology CRM, CheBanca! (Spain)
  • Divya Rathanlal, Emerging Technology Program Manager, City of Austin Texas (United States)
  • Regina Olivares, Principal Management Analyst, Clark County (United States)
  • Siew Choo Soh, Managing Director, DBS (Singapore)
  • Sandra Corkern, Associate Director, Real Estate Technology and Innovation, EY (Ernst & Young LLP) (United States)
  • Jennifer Turner, Senior Director, Digital Innovation, Strategy and Transactions, EY-Parthenon (United States)
  • Sabita Sharma, AVP, Automation and Innovation,Everest Re Group (United States)
  • Tracey Hawes, General Manager, Marketing and Trading, Fine Wine Delivery (New Zealand)
  • Julie Losee, Manager, Equipment Lease Accounting, Ford Motor Company (United States)
  • Denise Stokowski, Group VP, Platform Products, Gainsight (United States)
  • Hagit Tzafrir, VP Healthcare Division, Harel insurance LTD (Israel)
  • Annapurna Vishwanathan, Formerly Head of Digital, HCCB (Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd.) (India)
  • Curren Katz, Director of Data Science R&D, Highmark Health (United States)
  • Satoko Maeda, Assistant Manager, Hiroshima Prefecture (Japan)
  • Mari Sasaki, Section Chief, Kakuichi (Japan)
  • Anette Böhm, General Manager Corporate HR, KBC Group NB, (Belgium)
  • Ekaterina Ostankova, Product Manager – Virtual Assistant Lab, Lloyds Banking Group (United Kingdom)
  • Kaori Matsue, Manager, RC and Quality Assurance Division, Mitsui Chemical Group (Japan)
  • Alu Rodríguez, SVP Business Transformation, NH Hotel Group (Spain)
  • Jeanette Fürst, Director of Sales, OpenAdvice IT Services (Germany)
  • Donatella Sciuto, Professor of Computer Engineering and Deputy Rector, Politecnico di Milano (Italy)
  • Bharathi Ramadass, IT Product Manager, ServiceNow(United States)
  • Gema Pérez Ramón, Director, Taxation Office, Tax Administration Agency, Madrid Municipality (Spain)
  • Melissa Dorey, Digital Experience Principal, Telstra(Australia)
  • Lisa Sherman, President and CEO, The Ad Council (United States)
  • Pam Griffin, Associate Director, Cleaning Division, The Clorox Company (United States)
  • Poonam Verma, Managing Director, Head of Security Engineering and Operations, The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation (DTCC) (United States)
  • Supaluck Umpujh, Chairman, The Mall Group(Thailand)
  • Manami Endo, IT Planning Section, Information System Department, TRUSCO Nakayama Corporation (Japan)
  • Mio Sugihara, Assistant Manager, System Management Section, TRUSCO Nakayama Corporation (Japan)
  • Catharine Fennell, CEO, videoBIO (Canada)
  • Amy Oding, Operational Support and Automation Manager, Vodafone (New Zealand, APAC
  • Annie Shu, Manager of Strategy and Innovation, Westpac (Australia)

You can learn more about this year’s honorees on IBM’s site


Alex McFarland is a tech writer who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has worked with AI startups and publications across the globe.