Women We Love 2022: Alex Hanna

Alex Hanna

by Brittany Hosea-Small

“After I came out as a trans woman in graduate school, I started wondering about the connection of queer people and data,” Dr. Alex Hanna tells GO. “Queer people resist fitting neatly in boxes; when it comes to data, failing to fit in can have consequences that are awkward at times, and dangerous at others.” Now a PhD and the Director of Research at the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR), Hanna works with data used in new computational technologies, and the ways this data affects racial, gender and class inequality. “In my work with data and AI, I’ve wondered and asked about where the data that machine learning uses—like pictures, text and data—comes from,” Hanna explains. “Who’s making it, where’s it being collected from and who’s laboring on it? And most importantly, are those tools being used to benefit people who don’t fit into pre-made boxes?” A trained sociologist, Hanna has published in top-tier academic and computer science journals, and serves as a co-chair of Sociologists for Trans Justice and on the advisory board for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. She’s featured in Fast Company’s “Queer 50” and in the New Science exhibit at the Cal Academy of Sciences, which celebrates queer and trans scientists of color. Amid the research, writing and well-deserved accolades, Hanna’s goals remain clear. She tells GO, “I’m hoping we can stop the violence of current data-driven systems and rethink what technology that empowers people looks like.” –LE

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