Organizations are investing heavily in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). In fact, according to Time Magazine, D&I Initiatives represent a multi-billion dollar a year industry.
In June, at the Society of Human Resource Management conference, we held meetings with LinkedIn. The future growth of their company rests squarely on AI (Artificial Intelligence). This is mostly due to helping organizations achieve greater diversity and inclusion.
AI is many things, but it is increasingly seen as a central platform. The more people view it this way, the more we assume it to be a silver-bullet panacea. And, while it is many things, it’s not the only thing. Implementation of AI – essentially deferring decisions to machines which have always been made by humans such as whom to hire – would require an extraordinary shift of culture, beliefs, values and habits within organizations. Right, or wrong, most changes on organizational levels such as these are gradual and take time.
Just ask Malcom Gladwell. In his new book, “Talking to Strangers”, he explains our culture around human judgment and how people commonly misunderstand strangers which can result in perilous consequences. Gladwell also gives examples of how, all too often, flawed human decision making can be. Gladwell disproves commonly-held beliefs and raises our level of conscious awareness to reductionist stereotypes and wrongful application of things such as our law enforcement policies and practices. Which, he believes, created the environment for Black Lives Matter.
Artificial Intelligence is not an all-or-nothing situation. It must involve humans and work alongside technology to solve people problems. Human involvement gives technology its application. In order for AI programs to improve operations, it needs to raise awareness of unconscious bias in people and process. Mitigating unconscious bias is perhaps AI’s first, and most, relevant application. Unconscious bias play out in gender, race, class and even diversity of thought. It is commonly believed to exist and often starts with traditional hiring practices. Knowing the gender, race or even name of a candidate introduces biases. The types of leading questions, based upon faulty assumptions, asked by those who interview prospective hires, along with the references they make, are all steeped in biases and stereotypes. More often, however, hiring managers exhibit unconscious bias when they hire, or give unfair advantage, to candidates who have similar profiles, education and experiences to those of the hiring manager’s.
As a job candidate, it is especially important for women and women of color to recognize, and act upon, unconscious gender bias. It will help you determine cultural fit with future employers and better assess behaviors, along with tendencies and future indicators, of hiring managers themselves. For women, understanding gender diversity is the flip side of career progression. It can be a determining factor in the start, and ongoing development, of your career.
In future posts, we will study some foundations of gender bias. Our purpose in doing so is to pass along important aspects, based upon research, to help guide the successful start and ongoing progression of your career. Some of the topics we plan to cover include:
Why are people who claim to be objective actually the most biased? How are women breadwinners, which comprise 30% of households today, perceived by others? Why, irrespective of your authenticity, do people expect you to be consistent with stereotypes of the group to which you belong? Reconnect with us in future posts as we explore these and other topics closely related to gender diversity. Many thanks for your time and feedback.