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August 24, 2017

Can AI bring about workplace gender equality?

It’s time to turn positive support into recognisable action and make gender diversity a business imperative.

By James Nunns

Actions speak louder than words. Whilst it’s great to see awareness and support rising for equality in the workplace, it still feels like a lot of talk lacking in both conviction and commitment.

Last year’s World Economic Forum 2016 Global Gender Gap Report predicted that it would take women another 168 years to be fully equivalent with men in the workplace. In other words, if you want to see worldwide gender diversity become a reality, you’ll need to be alive and well until 2185.

Vera Loftis, Managing Director at Bluewolf in London.

Vera Loftis, Managing Director, Bluewolf

It’s a surprising prediction, not least because businesses who are failing to play their part in providing equal workplace opportunities are likely to be losing out considerably. Also consider a prediction from McKinsey, which in a report claimed that if women reached their full economic potential, global GDP could increase by up to $28 trillion in 2025. Continued lack of accountability and direct action could prove to be incredibly costly, and the report findings highlight how much companies stand to lose if it the problem endures. It’s certainly not something we can afford to wait 168 years for.

It’s time to turn positive support into recognisable action and make gender diversity a business imperative.

But what does action look like?

 

AI and the future of equal opportunity

Whether you define it as artificial or augmented intelligence, we already know that AI is fast changing how we do business. In the case of tackling gender diversity, AI is already being leveraged to identify and learn from bias within routine tasks and documents such as the job descriptions used in the hiring process.

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AI technology such as IBM Watson, renowned for its ability to take external data and use it to gain understanding and insights from mass amounts of unstructured data sets, can already be used to identify the impact certain words used in job descriptions have on the gender of job applicants.

Read more: Gender equality in the tech sector: it’s time to be bold

Using AI technology, certain language has been found to deter female applicants and heighten submissions of male CVs. Terms like “dominant” and “ninja” are particularly discouraging to female applicants. The lesson learnt here is that placing more thought into the language used when communicating to potential candidates can play a significant part in attracting more female applicants to your company, paving the way towards gender equivalence in the workplace. A simple change of vocabulary could have a much greater long-term impact on company culture, balance and performance.

 

Better together: partnering for diversity

Founding or partnering with organisations designed to encourage and support gender diversity in business is another great way to amplify efforts. At Bluewolf, we recently partnered with ChickTech, whose mission is to retain women in the technology workforce and increase the number of women pursuing technology-based careers. With ChickTech, we will be hosting a series of workshops across our US offices, which will focus on technical training and education for women in technology, including sessions on UI/UX design, marketing campaign development and coding.

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Corinne Sklar, also founded the Women Innovators Network (WIN) in 2015, which highlights and promotes women as entrepreneurs and innovators. The network awards leaders that are spearheading efforts on diversity and leadership, and also hosts global events to discuss issues, challenges and opportunities for women in business. The idea is to generate actionable ideas to inspire women and encourage greater collaboration among companies in different industries around the world.

We know that change takes time. But with the power of AI at our fingertips, we can begin to take the actions necessary to achieve equality in the workplace — sooner than 168 years. AI can be used to help us better understand where gender biases are, and provide insights on how to conquer them in tandem with proactive movements like ChickTech and WIN.

Above all, the key is to keep having positive conversations about the importance of this issue, nurturing and inspiring more women to pursue leadership in technology and business. The time to make these supportive discussions a reality is always now.

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