The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020 - 26

WOMEN AND MACHINE TRANSLATION continued

Much more emphasis has been placed recently on
the end user experience of MT.

activities, but I try to keep in touch with Papago colleagues
and collaborate on different MT-related subjects.
Great. Let's start then. Do you think it's true that there
is a difference between the number of women working
with MT in academia and industry?

J

This seems a bit anecdotal. Are there any statistics on how
many women work with MT in academia/industry versus
how many men? Unfortunately, I don't know of any statistics, and
I really don't have a good grip on the nature of the gender
imbalance other than in the most vague or general way. Also,
" working with MT " covers a lot of ground-user versus developer
and everything in between.

L

Thanks for pointing that out. I checked with the group
program manager for MT at Microsoft and he pointed
me to a document that showed that of all the technical roles
at Microsoft, approximately 20% are held by women.2 He
confirmed that this percentage is approximately the same
for MT development. And it's indeed " MT development "
that I had hoped to focus on in our discussion, but if you
have insights on different kinds of usage between female
and male users, I would be very interested in that as well.

J

As I mentioned earlier, I work at the University of
Ottawa's School of Translation and Interpretation, where
one of our goals is to educate language professionals in the use
of translation tools (both computer-assisted translation and MT).
So, most of my MT-related attention focuses on the user
perspective. I don't work directly in tool development per se,
and the students I work with don't usually go on to work in

L

26

The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2020

development either. Like me, they are language professionals
and language researchers who have an interest in how
translation technology is used by language professionals and
others. In my experience, both in Dublin and in Ottawa, the
development work is more often being done by researchers in
computer science departments. Of course, there's conversation
between the translation school and the computer science
department, but the development work is principally driven by
the computer science researchers. Here in Ottawa, we also have
the National Research Council of Canada, which has a very
active research and development team working on language
technologies, including MT (e.g., the Portage system).
Although there are some women researchers in both the
university computer science department and at the National
Research Council of Canada, they are certainly in the minority.
In contrast, women are in the majority at the School of
Translation and Interpretation, particularly in the student
body. So, in my experience, women researchers are more often
found working on the user side of MT, while the development
side is more dominated by male researchers.
I 'm on the side of MT development, and the observation
here is the same as for computer science in general. There
are many more men than women in this domain. I'm not sure that
there is a difference between the industry and academia, though it
seems that it's already the case among computer science
graduates, who seem to be " equally " (?) distributed between
industry and academia.

V

My experience would be similar to Lynne's. If we're
focusing only on MT " development, " then the majority
are male, but I see a growing number of female academics in
computer science in general and in the field of natural
language processing specifically. However, I think this
represents the traditional gender imbalances between science
and humanities. If, on the other hand, we broaden out what
we mean by " working " with MT, then the picture is more
positive. I know of many women working in MT client
support, MT evaluation, MT process integration, and
MT usage.

S

Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree here, but don't
you think that academia (i.e., research) and
development work very closely together in the case of MT?

J

Yes, that has been my experience, but I wouldn't say it's
true of all researchers' experience. The research funding
agencies are increasingly requiring collaboration with
commercial and nonprofit organizations and are (quite rightly)
demanding evidence of " impact " for the " citizens " they
represent. We'll hopefully see more collaboration as a result.
The challenge for those of us in translation studies is to ensure
that we're not last-minute add-ons to projects that simply tick
a box. My message to MT researchers is that the translation
studies and professional translation community is here, and we
have a lot to offer and are open for collaboration. Develop with
us not for us.

S

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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2020

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