Sama was founded to empower marginalized communities — and around the world, women are one of the most marginalized groups around the world. Just over 50% of women participate in the labor force, and the gender pay gap isn’t a uniquely American issue; it’s found around the world, too.
In particular, Sama’s mission is as follows, formalized in our conversion to a public benefit corporation: “Empowering and supporting marginalized youth and women in underserved communities in East Africa and other developing economies, with a focus on providing digital skills training and quality full-time entry-level employment.”
That mission, and our work towards it, has earned us a Gold Globee® Award as the Company of the Year – Artificial Intelligence in the 16th Annual 2023 Globee® Awards for Women in Business. We are proud to announce that the International Awards Associate (IAA), in collaboration with the TITAN Women In Business Awards, have also recognized Sama as the winner of a Platinum TITAN Award for Women in Business as Company of the Year in Information Technology. We are deeply honored by these recognitions of Sama and our team, from CEO Wendy Gonzalez down to our newest agents.
AI has enormous potential to change how we drive, how we grow our food, and how we manufacture essential goods. However, we firmly believe that for AI to fully live up to that potential, it must be developed with a diversity of perspectives. This is essential for reducing bias in models, but different perspectives also allow for new ways of thinking as to how AI can be leveraged and ways to solve problems that arise in development.
While statistics for women in the formal economy need improvement, the statistics for women in AI in particular are also not strong: research indicates that women make up only about a quarter of the global AI workforce. Even as we created 1,622 new jobs last year, which is a single-year record for us, we remain committed to gender parity: 51% of our workforce identifies as female; 48% of senior managers identify as female; and 50% of the executive team identifies as female.
Our work extends to paying living wages and providing a bridge to the formal economy. Our new entry-level employees in 2022, primarily based in Kenya and Uganda, averaged a 2.2x increase in income from employment with the company and access to formal benefits and protections as employees. The OECD estimates that some 86% of workers in Africa are informally employed, meaning they do not receive labor protections or benefits. By creating these jobs, providing training, and paying these kinds of wages, Sama is helping more people participate in the formal economy as employees with benefits including healthcare, further education, paid sick days, and mental health counseling.
Leila Janah founded Sama in the belief that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Since our founding in 2008, we have worked to harness the power of markets and technology for social good. We aren’t doing this for these awards, but having our work acknowledged shows more companies that it is possible to not only succeed as a business with more than one bottom line, but thrive.
We’d like to extend our congratulations to the other Globee and TITAN Award winners around the world. We find the work they are doing inspiring and know that we are in good company.