Turning Information Technology Into A Powerful Force For Equality

Lately, it almost seems technology is tearing society apart, while exacerbating the gaps between rich and poor. Tech moguls aside, consider the recent acts of rage by some San Francisco residents against tech commuters. There is also no shortage of fear of technology and automation eliminating jobs, especially for low-skilled or blue-collar workers. Artificial intelligence is tainted by the biases of the white male programmers developing the algorithms.

Yet, all things considered, there are reasons to be optimistic that technology may also be a powerful force for equality. As has been amplified over the work-from-anywhere trend over the past year, people no longer have to leave their communities to pursue good job opportunities — this will help areas distressed by business closings. Likewise, technology is delivering education directly from the world’s most prominent institutions to students in the most remote corners of the globe, as well as those struggling to pay for quality education. Most hopefully, technology could reduce racism and sexism as advancement is based on results delivered. With technology services ubiquitous and widely available, there is immense opportunity for female-led and minority-led startups to flourish.

Similarly, technology can play a key role in achieving greater diversity, equity and inclusion within organizations where racism and sexism have blocked progress for people for decades. Technology can help break through these barriers, as explored in a recent report published by Deloitte, which notes that technology leaders need to take the lead in opening more opportunities for women and minorities. Technology leaders can “play a critical role as strategic partners by designing, developing, and executing tech-enabled solutions to address increasingly complex challenges. They can help identify areas that lack diversity or equity by reengineering the way data is collected, managed, analyzed, and reported.”

This starts at the way talent is identified and hired, through the management culture of organizations. Technology leaders can also “provide the technical expertise and strategic vision required to integrate solutions that span the workforce lifecycle, eventually embedding them into the organization’s technology stack and processes to drive diversity, equity and inclusion across the workplace.”

There are three areas where technology can make a difference:

Recruitment and advancement: “Tools can help identify, recruit, develop, and advance a more diverse talent pool. Identify and address biased language in job postings using natural language processing. Nudge recruiters at key points in the hiring process to increase awareness of potential bias using AI. Access pools of qualified, diverse candidates through candidate search platforms. Objectively identify optimal candidates for jobs or promotions using AI, machine learning, and automation.”

Leadership and culture: “Tools can help leaders build inclusive cultures, including engagement and retention of diverse talent. Support efforts to build inclusion and belonging within work groups using organizational network analysis and community-building social platforms. Encourage more objective performance reviews using natural language processing and machine learning. Gain insight into behavior changes needed to develop inclusive leaders using behavioral assessment tools and learning platforms.”

Measurement and insights: “Data and analytics tools can be used to establish organizational baselines, measure progress, and deliver actionable insights. Monitor diversity, equity and inclusion KPIs, including compensation and advancement equity, using advanced analytics, data visualization, and interactive dashboards. Match people to diverse workplace opportunities and coaches using data insights. Predict which workers are likely to leave using predictive forecasting models to proactively intervene. Evaluate qualitative and quantitative outcomes of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts using advanced analytics.”

Of course, all the best technologies on the planet can’t eradicate racism and sexism alone. People need to fight these evils with empathy, education and meaningful action. As the Deloitte authors point out, “technology, used appropriately, can support human objectivity, consistency, and fairness, but it will work only when backed by ongoing leadership commitment to building a diverse workforce, equitable environment, and inclusive culture.” Time to step up, and provide opportunities for all.

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