I Am Her: Ayesha Khanna On The Future Of Women In Tech | Clozette


Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.


Women in the fields of technology and science have often been relegated to supporting roles, but not Ayesha Khanna. As the co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI, Ayesha’s work has been instrumental in establishing her company as one of Forbes' top four leading artificial intelligence companies in Asia. This, in addition to her efforts with 21C Girls, a charity which provides free coding and AI classes to girls in Singapore, has enabled her to open opportunities for women in technology and to push the limits of human potential.


Ahead, we learn more about Ayesha and her life's work.


ayesha khanna


Fill in the blank: I am a CEO, entrepreneur, and _________.


Mum


What inspired you to start ADDO AI?


I was inspired to start ADDO AI because I saw that in Asia if you use tech and big data and AI you can really improve and reduce the costs of basic services like transport, improve access to education, lower the risk of getting hurt in manufacturing processes… all of these positive benefits to companies, to businesses and governments, inspired me to be in this field. When I came to Singapore, I saw a big gap in AI-related skills so I thought I would start a firm to address that.


As a woman, how did you overcome the gender bias in your field of work?


I was part of a very small group of women working in software. I wanted to do something about it to support women. It really makes women lose their confidence when there’s not enough support. So I started a charity called 21C Girls. I wanted to provide a group that advocated for equal representation in technology, where girls felt encouraged and confident being part of the industry.



Historically, women did not get as much recognition in your field. What do you think is the future of women in science and technology?


I think the future for women is very bright. There’s a global movement right now where many women are coming out, wanting to be recognized and paid equally, and are encouraging each other. There are also many wonderful men supporting women in the industry in terms of equal pay and rights. We’re not there yet but maybe in five years, we’ll really make a difference and the traditional gender biases will be part of the past.



As someone who is fully immersed in tech, how do you deal with tech-related stress?


I don’t find it stressful at all; I love technology! I have curated where I go on the internet, who I follow, and I also read very specific magazines and publications so I don’t experience the information overload as much. I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I enjoy it but I wouldn’t recommend too much of it as it can be misleading when you only see the picture-perfect lives of people. It also puts you in a filter bubble and disconnects you from reality because it reinforces only your way of thinking.



Aside from coding and AI, what other skills/interests have you nurtured?


I’ve always been interested in the arts. When I was younger I started a magazine in New York, produced short films, and translated poetry in Urdu (a language in Pakistan). I think anyone who’s interested in tech should also learn something about the humanities and social sciences. The reverse is the same. The 21st Century Renaissance man/woman must learn to work in interdisciplinary teams, follow what they’re passionate about but also know a little about other people.



Would you have any advice for young women or women all over the world who want to achieve something but feel limited by their circumstances?


I would definitely say the first step is to take action. We are so lucky to have so many educational opportunities for free. You can digitally educate yourself then you can find digital work, there are lots available for both. If you upscale yourself, you will get a job. All you need is internet and a laptop. This is fantastic for women; they don’t need permission to do this, they can just go and direct their own lives. The best way to empower yourself is to improve your skills and to educate yourself.


21C Girls


Will you tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t normally expect?


I think lots of people associate me with this very high tech AI big data world. They don’t know I look at it in a philosophical manner, in the human value that AI is creating. I think it should support humans to achieve more in our lives and achieve harmony with each other and that also comes from my years of working in Human Rights.



We’ve noticed you tend to go for a bit of colour in your sartorial choices. Can you share with us your Clozette essentials?


Definitely black. I always have a black dress, pants, or heels. Then I match it with emerald green or magenta pink, always a bit of colour. Clean lines look professional, but I do like to do my hair and add a bit of flare and colour to show that I’m having fun being a woman while also being a professional.


This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.


Inspired? Check out stories of other exceptional women here.

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In recent months, there's been a rise in 'off-beat' and eccentric footwear. These are styles that we never thought we'd love. Some have even been downright disdained about a decade ago. For example, wearing Uggs and Dad Sneakers were once considered an embarrassing fashion crime but it's now seen as cute and trendy. Ahh, how times have changed! And in 2019, another odd throwback style is taking centre stage. Unexpectedly, sporty sandals are now cool. Who would have thought? Right now, your feelings may still be mixed but these cute pieces are bound to change your mind.


New Balance SDL330


New Balance SDL330 11

SGD89/~USD65.74


Jump on the comfy shoe trend with these super stylish slider sandals from New Balance. With the buckle closures and velcro straps, it's basically the prettier version of your childhood footwear from the '90s. To deliver maximum comfort, the synthetic upper is paired with a signature REVlite midsole so these are also great for travelling.


Nike Benassi Duo Ultra


Nike Benassi Duo Ultra

USD40 (nike.com)


Once, sporty footwear came in limited colourways. But thankfully, now we have a wide array of colourful selections. As pastel lovers, we have our eyes on the of the Nike Benassi Duo Ultra. Built to be extremely lightweight, these sandals have a plush foam midsole feature that will make you feel like you're walking on air.


Reebok Classic Slide


Reebok Classic Slide Neon

USD25 (reebok.com)


Loving the neon trend? Add these eye-catching sandals to your collection. Because of its bright shade, it can instantly uplift your ensemble with minimal effort. It's also a great choice for tropical country dwellers as the materials used and the structure are specifically designed for hot weather. 


adidas Adilette Slides


addidas Adilette Slides

USD50 (adidas.com)


Spice up summer outfits with these dazzling printed sandals by adidas. Designed in collaboration with streetwear apparel The Farm Company, this pair was given a fresh facelift that suits the elegant resort style. It's great to pair with tropical-printed beach shorts or even bikinis!



PUMA Popcat Silk Women's Slide Sandals


PUMA Popcat Silk Women's Slide Sandals

USD25 (us.puma.com)


For those who have a hard time letting go of their fabulous stilettos but still want to try the comfy shoe trend, we suggest you go for this glam pair of sandals from PUMA. It has a soft, satin strap with a cute, ruffled design that will surely appeal to your sophisticated tastes. 


Look cute despite the heat with these hot style tips.


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No prizes guessing where we wandered off to for the second stop of our annual tea party after Singapore: right “next door”, Malaysia! With the buzz of last October’s gathering with members of our community still fresh in our minds, this April’s session saw us getting acquainted with new faces on top of meeting a handful of our most supportive Clozetters.


A photo collage of ladies smiling

Our digital wanderers came together at Happ Café (where we welcomed our community to step into their new Clozette two years ago) and were treated to a delightful afternoon tea along with a series of fun activities that perfectly defined the essence of our regular get-togethers. Guests adorned their hands with a Baby-G by Casio showcase and EMMEzing NAILS DIY nail polish wraps; got their LANEIGE Layering Cover Cushions personalised with calligraphy; and were treated to a scalp analysis by Ryo Hair.


But that’s not all, of course. There were delicately wrapped mini floral bouquets, beauty pouch customisation with stick-on patches, temporary tattoos, and finally, a goodie bag to bring home and remember the party by. And for the lucky ones: three guests got to walk away with a Baby-G by Casio watch each, while one winner scored a one-night staycation for two courtesy of Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. Keep scrolling to see our event highlights.



Getting their hands adorned with Baby-G by Casio watches and EMMEzing NAILS nail wraps


On the left is a display of three pale pastel-coloured watches; On the right is a photo of a lady getting her nail done.


Personalising their very own LANEIGE Layering Cover Cushions with calligraphy work


On the left is a photo of a table with colourful cosmetic products on display; On the right is a close-up of a hand holding a personalised rose-coloured compact foundation.


Enjoying a scalp analysis by Ryo Hair


On the left is a display of different haircare products; On the right is a mobile scalp analysis equipment on display.


Treating themselves to mini floral bouquets and temporary tattoos


On the left is a photo of a tiny floral bouquet; On the right is a photo of someone applying a temporary tattoo of clouds on her hand, plus a wooden plate full of other tattoos.


Trying their hands on beauty pouch customisation


A woman customising her small canvas pouch with various designs.


Lucky winners with prizes from Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur and Baby-G by Casio


Lucky winners pose for the camera while holding their prizes.


A goodie bag to remember the party by


A small flower bouquet, stickers, a scrapbook, a foundation cushion, a bottle of shampoo, a black paper bag, and other sorts of skincare products are all laid down on mosaic tiles.

Check out our tea party coverage on Facebook here

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