Diversity and Inclusion in XR
XRSI Launches A Novel Diversity and Inclusion Effort: Cyber-XR Coalition
Kavya Pearlman, XRSI Founder and CEO, says that “The Cyber-XR Coalition has been formed specifically to address the need for diversity and inclusion in both cybersecurity and XR domain while bringing them together to address social and technical biases in emerging technologies to build safer and inclusive ecosystems for all”
February 2020 – XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) announces the Cyber-XR Coalition: A Diversity & Inclusion Effort by XRSI. The coalition brings together D&I-focused leading organizations to advance diversity and inclusion within the fields of XR and Cybersecurity.
We are at one of the most critical moments in human history – a crossroads between emerging technologies, data sciences, and cybersecurity – fueled by a renewed, global necessity of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in each domain. So, in honor of Black History Month, we are furthermore encouraged to lead as a presence in this dynamic ecosystem by providing innovative and engaging programming, that brings leading D&I focused organizations together for a greater good. Along the same principle, XRSI has begun efforts to connect and support underrepresented groups, provide inclusive programs, and encourage community engagement of diverse populations throughout the XR and Cybersecurity industries, all by collaboration under a unified D&I effort by XRSI named Cyber-XR Coalition.
In 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a report finding that just about 8 percent of tech jobs in the US are held by Hispanics and 7.4 percent by African-Americans. At the same time, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 26 percent of the American computing workforce is female. Despite the fact that women are more likely to enroll in university than men, tech jobs are still facing high levels of gender inequality. During the first computing revolution, companies like HP and IBM actually had more reasonable gender diversity than today, marking a step back in an always forward-looking industry.
With the rise of AI-based solutions, the issue is becoming more and more relevant, and the over-representation of men in the design of these technologies could undo decades of advances in gender and racial equality.
Machine intelligence learns primarily from observing the provided data. This means that the input is crucial: if that data carries stereotypical concepts of gender or race, the resulting application of the technology will perpetuate this bias. Some recent studies show that removing bias from learning algorithms is possible, and decades of research can determine the success of this effort.
The models and systems we create and train are a reflection of ourselves. There have been several high profile cases of bias, including computer vision systems for gender recognition that reported higher error rates for recognizing women, specifically those with darker skin tones.
This imbalance applies also to the digital beings created in virtual environments. Try it yourself: put on an HMD and dive into Social VR applications: the way you represent yourself (gender, ethnicity, or simply name or skin color) draws the line of the way you’re treated.
Leading thinkers in the emerging field addressing bias in artificial intelligence are primarily female or minorities, suggesting that those who are potentially affected by bias are more likely to see, understand and attempt to resolve it. Gender and racial balance in machine learning is crucial to prevent algorithms from perpetuating ideologies that disadvantage under-represented groups.
This is not a novel challenge, but with the rise of emerging technologies, It has however reached an inflection point. Primarily the reason for commencing XRSI’s Diversity & Inclusion effort – Cyber-XR Coalition, led by XRSI’s D&I advisor April M Boyd, brings together the following globally recognized organizations and professionals who share the common goals and principles:
Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) is a non-profit membership organization with national reach that is dedicated to bringing together women in cybersecurity from academia, research and industry to share knowledge, experience, networking and mentoring. WiCyS helps build a strong cybersecurity workforce with gender equality by facilitating recruitment, retention, and advancement for women in the field. “We are excited to collaborate on this diversity initiative as cybersecurity is an important element of Virtual Reality and WiCyS continues to be involved in all aspects of recruiting, retaining, and promoting Women in Cybersecurity” – Dr. Janell Straach. WiCyS Chair of the Board.
InfoSecGirls is a community for women passionate about information security. Vandana Verma, InfoSecGirls Global and Bangalore Lead, stated that the group wants “to inspire curiosity among women in technology about the realities of information security”.
Open AR Cloud (OARC) has a mission to drive the development of open and interoperable spatial computing technology, data and standards to connect the physical and digital worlds for the benefit of all.
Women in Immersive Tech Europe (WiiT-EU), founded by Leen Segers, states that “at WiiT-EU, our vision is to create an inclusive network of talented women and minorities who are driving Europe’s virtual, augmented and mixed reality sectors. Feeling safe in an extended reality world is a basic requirement for these new forms of storytelling to become a reality. The Cyber-XR Coalition between various cybersecurity and XR organizations will definitely accelerate cybersecurity and inclusion, not just in Europe, but globally”.
Spark Mindset uses virtual reality to address the national shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, close gaps in gender and race while closing the opportunity and wealth gap in low-income communities, especially African American and Latino populations. Spark Mindest founder Lawrence Wagner states “at Spark Mindset, we want to break the cycle of poverty by preparing low-income students for cybersecurity careers. We believe the coalition will level the playing field for women and minorities in the cybersecurity and XR fields”.
SecureDiversity.org, founded by Deidre Diamond, who welcomes the effort states. “It only takes one. One person to change the narrative and others will join. We at SecureDiversity.org are honored to support and contribute to the profound principle of Diversity and Inclusion together with XRSI and partners. Thank you for being that “one voice” Kavya, for you now have created awareness of this very serious topic; together we will solve it! SecureDiversity began its journey with a strong focus on training being the answer to inclusion. We need training on XR specific challenges with D/I and we need solutions. We are here to support these two things and we are thankful for your leadership”.
OWASP WIA The purpose of OWASP WIA is to develop leadership, promote active membership, participation, and contributions by women in application security professional communities, globally and locally. WIA joins the coalition to further the mission and help solve application security specific challenges in XR.
Christopher Lafayette, an advocate of “Building Together” is an emergent technologist in Medtech, climate change, artificial intelligence, telepresence, disruptive media, and other additional applied sciences, along with virtual, augmented and mixed reality. In Christopher’s own words, “technology needs more color. More culture. More stories, people and backgrounds. More women. leaders, drivers, and lenses. With all that we’re building of artificial intelligence and the digital realities we’re making, it is absolutely pertinent to consider, that if we’re going to extend reality, then we must bring reality with it. #BuildTogether. No matter the color, no matter the gender”.
Muki-International Ltd founder Muki Kulhan states “the Cyber-XR Coalition Coalition has been formed to encourage strong, creative, global XR communities to promote fairness, good ethics, values, and inclusion into every project from the start, leaning in to change for good, for all generations in 2020 and beyond”.
Well known as the “Cyber Guardian”, Kavya Pearlman is an Award-winning cybersecurity professional with a deep interest in immersive and emerging technologies. Kavya is the founder of the non-profit, XR Safety Initiative (XRSI). XRSI is the very first global effort that promotes privacy, security, ethics and develops standards and guidelines for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality (VR/AR/MR) collectively known as XR.
Kavya is constantly exploring new technologies to solve current cybersecurity challenges. She has been named one of the Top Cybersecurity influencers for two consecutive years 2018-29019 by IFSEC Global. Kavya has won many awards for her work and contribution to the security community including 40 under 40 Top Business Executives 2019 by San Francisco Business Times, Rising Star of the year 2019 by Women in IT Award Series and Minority CISO of the Year 2018 by ICMCP. For her work with XR Safety Initiative, she was and nominated as the Innovator of the year 2019 and received the CISO Women Security Leader award from Middle East CISO Council.
Marco Magnano is a journalist with years of experience in radio and advanced media. More than 20 years ago, he confronted the challenges of digital evolution as a media activist focused on security and privacy. He has traveled across continents to uncover stories from various domains, from the Syrian war crisis to the for freedom of information and the geopolitical challenges, and continuing his mission into XR technologies.
XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) is a 501(c)(3) worldwide not-for-profit charitable organization focused on promoting privacy, security, ethics in the XR domain (virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality). Our mission is to help build safe immersive environments so that XR stakeholders are able to make informed and pragmatic decisions. We do so by discovering novel cybersecurity, privacy, and ethical risks and proposing potential solutions to mitigate them. XRSI, being first such global effort, finds itself in a unique position to provide impartial, practical information about XR related risks to individuals, corporations, universities, government agencies, and other organizations worldwide. XRSI develops standards, frameworks as well as knowledge-based documentation in the XR domain by partnering with global institutions, such as STOP.THINK.CONNECT. Campaign and Open AR Cloud.