Silent Battles: Recognizing Hidden Privilege

Tooba Durraze
3 min readJan 5, 2024

“It’s not just about me; it’s about all of us in AI, the incredible ‘godmothers,’ pioneers, active researchers, and students from all walks of life.” Dr. Fei-Fei Li’s tweet in response to a flawed NY Times article captures this sentiment perfectly. She acknowledges the myriad of women who have long inspired the world of AI. Women in tech responded to the article’s oversight with a powerful display of the contributions of women in AI. This marked the beginning of an important conversation, Battle 1.

“I don’t even know if people understand how ludicrous this entire discourse is,” Timnit Gebru stated in a LinkedIn post, discussing the unjust resignation of Dr. Gay from Harvard. She pointed out the double standards and the media’s role in perpetuating these issues. This situation is a stark reminder of the ongoing fight for fairness and equality, Battle 2.

Mia Shah-Dand’s post about the tech industry’s so-called meritocracy resonates deeply. She discusses the resistance to hiring qualified representatives from diverse backgrounds, often labeled as “too much DEI” or “affirmative action gone wild.” Her work challenges these myths and has been calling for a more inclusive and ethical approach to technology for the last 5 years, Battle 3.

“Sadly, ambition is a bad look on people like me,” writes Neha Sampat, discussing the financial oppression and societal backlash faced by those who dare to own their worth, especially immigrants or children of immigrants. Her insights shed light on the emotional toll of these struggles, Battle 4.

These battles are not just stories; they are my reality.

  • I have been minimized or excluded from work I was directly responsible for.
  • I have had my credentials questioned by non-POC peers with no relevance in my area of expertise — and without any due cause.
  • I have had my ideas and strategy hijacked by men in power without any credit.
  • I have had my progression tied unfairly to a non-diverse peer group who created a culture of toxicity and complacency.

As an immigrant woman of color in the hyped field of AI, these are battles I’ve fought, am fighting, and will continue to fight despite my expertise. Although inspired by my muses who’ve been in this fight for decades, I am both afraid and exhausted. Afraid of the unfair standards and practices, exhausted from having to demand respect that should be given freely, and tired of the “different rules for different people.” I’m wary of achieving anything significant, fearing that the “system” might retaliate, and pre-exhausted at the thought of spending my life trying to belong to a system that seems intent on rejecting me.

As I embark on this new endeavor, I am changing my interaction with the system. Ask me about math, industry insights, my art, the physics theories captivating my mind, or the latest research paper I’ve read. Don’t ask me about my position in the corporate hierarchy or my presence in circles of influence.

Instead, I will invest my energy in nurturing inclusive spaces and celebrating ecosystems reflective of a future less daunting and exhausting for those like me. For everything else, consider this my au revoir.