Here is your June guide to the latest trends impacting the world of work. Every month, we seek to understand how areas of importance are evolving and provide perspective. Over the past few years, The Scoop has included insights on the topics of D&I and of algorithmic bias. Fittingly, this edition will focus on systemic challenges to workplace diversity, as well as revisit some previously shared insights on the application of technologies with inherent biases and the perpetuation of workplace disparities.
EMPLOYEE VOICE: UNDERSTAND THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR DIVERSE EMPLOYEES
As employers implement strategies to create workforces that more closely represent the diversity in our nation, the focus is often on recruitment, pipelining, exploring technologies that aid in diversity sourcing, or assisting with unconscious bias using elements such as blind interviewing.
The landscape has changed; now, more than ever, candidates are actively researching employers on non-sanctioned platforms like Reddit or Blind —Facebook example— to seek out the “truth” of the experience within the company.
We have arrived at a moment where failing to diagnosis systemic issues in the workplace will start to erode your top of funnel diversity recruitment efforts. It is imperative to understand how diverse employees’ experiences differ from other groups.
“It is important to understand how people perceive their organization, specifically their unique experience as an employee (employee engagement, organizational culture, etc.), how they are spoken to (communications) and how they can speak to the organization (employee voice). More than half (58%) of the engagement/retention D&I tech market focuses on employee experience.”
Areas like “Employee Voice” are foundationally important. The tech in this area is designed to enable employees to share their perspectives (separate from an employee engagement survey). Vendors like Pluto provide an anonymous reporting structure that allows employees to share information on misconduct, harassment and discrimination, with a greater knowledge of how it will be addressed and provide employers a level of insight into trending inclusion issues within the organization.
The rest of this edition will pull forward insights from previous editions that focus workforce diversity challenges and bias in technology.
WORKPLACE GENDER REPRESENTATION IN TECH IS STILL SLUGGISH
The implication of the lack of gender representation in tech is further exacerbated when intersectionality is considered.
While using facial analysis software, computer scientist and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, Joy Buolamwini found that it couldn’t detect her dark-skinned face until she put on a white mask. This realization led her to research the prevalence of gender and racial bias in tools developed by some of the large tech companies — IBM, Microsoft and Amazon, etc. — and, if left unchecked, the ways in which technology can create a new system of exclusion.
Watch: “Coded Bias” Documentary – This new film looks at the fight against racial bias in facial recognition & AI technology. View screening details here
WHAT’S IN AN
NAME IMAGE? TECH USING COMPUTER VISION MAY BEGIN TO SEE SLOWED PROGRESS
The impact of continued conversations about biases that arise with the use of these tools in areas that could potentially lead to greater disenfranchisement – housing, work, etc. – comes at a time when companies are investing heavily in AI technology. Research out of Carnegie Mellon, “Mapping the Movement of AI into the Marketplace with Patent Data,” shows the greatest growth in tech innovations leveraging “Image Analysis.”
Taken in aggregate, this discussion may slow the adoption of tools with computer vision technology at its core. And with the continued conversation about algorithmic accountability and other AI legislation, employers considering adopting new tools will need to balance the benefits and the risks as they seek greater effectiveness (or seemingly more accurate applicant selection).
COULD VARIED DATASETS AND ALGORITHMIC TRANSPARENCY INCREASE CONFIDENCE IN AI HR TOOLS?
While the HR industry has been slow to invest in new technology — often looking for ROI metrics from first movers — the tight labor market and skills gap may prove a great motivator against risk-aversion.
New research out of Wharton shines a light on the potential pitfalls of implementing AI to augment HR functions. The challenges that exist with traditional methods used to assess company and job fit can be exacerbated by tools that leverage backward-looking siloed datasets. Effectively, each database holds a clue that sheds light on the question of candidate fitness and allowing the data between these systems to “talk” to each other potentially increases reliability. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
As employers acquire AI-driven tools, underpinned by larger and varied datasets with the goal of a more effective selection process, the need for greater understanding into how those decisions are made — explainable and defensible AI — may increase focus on biases and unintended consequences.
“To prevent algorithms from carrying harmful biases — like racial prejudice — decision-makers need to carefully assess how diverse their data collection is, and what values it reflects. Building an AI application starts with understanding the objectives, designing a hypothesis and identifying the necessary data to build the right algorithm. Then, in the final step in the process, there’s a great opportunity to identify bias.”
THE IMPACT OF ECONOMIC SHIFTS ON DIVERSITY HIRING
Demand (number of jobs opened) has slowed slightly compared to this time last year, but the labor market continues to be favorable to job seekers. A strong economy, bringing with it an influx of jobs across all sectors, often results in wage gains and lower unemployment for most groups that are often marginalized. This current economic boom has resulted in greater job gains for Hispanic and black women, +2.2% and +1.6%, respectively.
However, circumstantial gains tend to be precarious. Population and demographic factors, such as educational attainment and racial and ethnic minorities status, tend to result in greater increases in unemployment during economic downturns than other groups. During the last economic crisis, the employment rate for black women declined 9.4% from its peak, and 6% for Hispanic women.
CIRCLING THE WAGONS ON AI LEGISLATION IN HR: THE EEOC FINALLY WEIGHS IN
Over the years, technology has streamlined the job application process. As the number of resumes for each job opening continues to increase, the tech market has again stepped in to increase efficiency in the recruitment process. From advertising to selection, a greater number of employers use AI-powered tools that have been increasingly coming under scrutiny from advocacy groups and policy makers (check out the June edition of The Scoop, Artificial Intelligence Regulation and Legislation).
While Equal Opportunity Employment laws haven’t changed much in this regard since the 70s, the EEOC is reportedly now investigating at least two discrimination cases involving job decision algorithms used to help make hiring, promotion and other job decisions unlawfully discriminate against certain groups of workers.
ROUNDING OUT THE SCOOP: STAY INFORMED
Want to stay informed about bias in technology? Follow these experts and organizations:
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | February 2021 - February 25, 2021
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | January 2021 - January 28, 2021
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | December 2020 - December 17, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | November 2020 - November 19, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | October 2020 - October 16, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | September 2020 - September 16, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | August 2020 - August 13, 2020
- Looking to the Past for Insights into What’s Next for the World of Work - August 5, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | July 2020 - July 15, 2020
- The Scoop: Recruitment Trends & Industry Insights | June 2020 - June 11, 2020