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Do women have anything to say about autonomous weapons? [Updated on October 25, 2016]

Update (October 25, 2016) — Mary Wareham of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots maintains a regularly updated “Binder of Women,” listing the names and bios of female experts on the technical, ethical, legal, operational, and policy aspects of autonomous weapons. As news reports, panels, and meetings on autonomy continue to underrepresent women experts, the Binder is an essential resource, listing over 50 female experts. It is available here: http://www.stopkillerrobots.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WomenExperts_1Feb2016.pdf

No woman will appear as an “expert” speaker at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) first expert meeting on autonomous weapons this week.  On the first day of the expert meeting, the representative of Norway, and a number of civil society representatives, publicly noted the striking gender disparity: 18 invited expert speakers, 0 women.

The side events to the CCW meeting, organized by civil society, do feature women on every panel.

It is currently the case – in specifically legal writing on autonomous weapons – that many of the reports and much of the published academic scholarship (i.e, in law journals or edited books) has been authored by men. (This is why Just Security readers will find just one document authored by a woman in Just Security’s reading list on autonomous systems).  There are, however, a number of in-progress or soon to be published legal articles by female scholars; various published articles in other disciplines by women; policy-oriented pieces, blog posts, and opinion pieces by women; and women have been extremely active in leading, from the beginning, the work of various institutions and organizations working on autonomous weapons issues.

In the interests of improving the representation of women at future events, here is just the start of a list of women who write or speak on autonomous weapons (with thanks to some of those listed below for raising the issue of the gender disparity, organizing to improve it, and for sharing the names of other women in this field):

Ray Acheson (Disarmament – Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)
Laura Boillot (Disarmament – Article 36)
Maya Brehm (Disarmament – Article 36)
Charli Carpenter (Political Science – UMass)
Rebecca Crootof (Law — Yale Law School)
Missy Cummings (Engineering – MIT)
Bonnie Docherty (Law and disarmament – HRW/Harvard)
Beatrice Fihn (Disarmament – Reaching Critical Will/WILPF)
Denise Garcia (International Relations – Northeastern)
Chantal Grut (Law – Rosenstock Legal Services)
Erin Hunt (Disarmament – Mines Action Canada)
Neha Jain (Law – University of Minnesota)
Deborah Johnson (Philosophy/Applied Ethics — School of Engineering, University of Virginia)
Kathleen Lawland (ICRC Arms Unit Head)
Merel Noorman (Artificial Intelligence/Science and Technology Studies — Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)
Maral Mirshahi (International Relations — Norwegian Center for Humanitarian Studies)
Naz Modirzadeh (Law – Harvard)
Elizabeth Quintana (Engineering — Royal United Services Institute)
Rasha Abdul Rahim (Amnesty)
Heather Roff (Political Science – University of Denver)
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (Law — Director, Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies)
Miriam Struyk (Disarmament – PAX)
Lucy Suchman (Sociology – Lancaster)
Milena Costas Trascasas (Law – Geneva Academy)
Kerstin Vignard (UN Institute for Disarmament Research, Chief of Operations)
Mary Wareham (Disarmament – HRW)
Jutta Weber (Media Studies — University of Paderborn)
Jody Williams (Disarmament – Nobel Women’s Initiative)

No doubt there are many, many more. Send us names and we’ll add them to this preliminary list.

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About the Author

is associate clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School, director of the Human Rights Clinic, co-director of the Human Rights Institute. She was a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions from 2007 to 2016. Follow her on Twitter (@SarahKnuckey).