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. As an undergraduate, Buolamwini studied computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she researched health informatics. Buolamwini graduated as a Stamps President’s Scholar from Georgia Tech in 2012 and was the youngest finalist of the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize in 2009.
Buolamwini is a Rhodes Scholar, a Fulbright fellow, a Stamps scholar, an Astronaut Scholar and an Anita Borg Institute scholar. As a Rhodes Scholar, she studied learning and technology at Jesus College, Oxford. During her scholarship she took part in the first formal Service Year, working on community-focused projects. She was awarded a Master’s Degree from MIT in 2017 for research supervised by Ethan Zuckerman.
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. 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, and attracted 7,300 submissions from young women across the United States.
Buolamwini delivered a TEDx talk at Beacon Street entitled How I’m fighting bias in algorithms. In 2018 she appeared on TED Radio Hour. She was featured on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls in 2018. Fast Company magazine listed her as one of four “design heroes who are defending democracy online”. She was listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2018. In 2018 she was featured among “America’s Top 50 Women In Tech” by Forbes.
In 2019, Buolamwini was listed in Fortune Magazine’s 2019 list of the World’s Greatest Leaders. The magazine also termed her “the conscience of the A.I. revolution”. She also made the inaugural Time 100 Next list in 2019. In 2020, Joy Buolamwini featured in Levi’s woman empowerment campaign for 8 March International Women’s Day. She was also featured in the documentary Coded Bias