Joanna Srokowska has over 10 years of professional experience in the executive search business. She has worked as a Consultant with Signium since 2010. Between 2006 and 2010 she worked as Research Consultant and Researcher. Joanna has completed hundr...
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing our world in ways that were previously unimaginable. From self-driving cars to personalized healthcare, it is changing every aspect of our lives including business, where its integration into operations is arguably the biggest shift since the internet was developed.
Understanding the relationship between AI and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) is crucial for today’s leaders as it helps make fair and unbiased decisions thereby promoting equal opportunities and mitigating potential biases in AI systems.
Says Joanna Srokowska – Global Life Sciences Practice Co-Lead, Signium Poland: “Business leaders should be aware that from a larger societal perspective, AI could contribute to an increase in equality. There is the potential for a growing social divide between individuals who are proficient in using technology and can also afford paid versions of AI models and those who cannot. This may also be reflected at the organizational level, where resource-rich organizations can develop customized, well-trained solutions and less equipped organizations may lack the resources to adapt.”
Incorporating AI in business operations can have a profound impact on the workforce. It can lead to automation of certain tasks, for instance: customer service, providing 24/7 support through chatbots and virtual assistants. It improves sales and marketing by analyzing customer data and automating tasks. In operations and supply chain management, it can optimize processes and reduces costs whilst in finance it can automate transactions and risk assessment; in manufacturing, it can enhance productivity and quality control.
Leaders who can anticipate and effectively handle the influence of AI on their business and employees are able to facilitate a seamless transition. This could present opportunities for reskilling or upskilling.
Automation can personalize training and learning programs that address specific skill gaps and development needs for all employees, ensuring equal opportunities and growth. In addition, it provides a shift in perspective when dealing with challenges. Unlike humans, this technology does not have distorted notions, personal biases or emotional attachments that could cloud judgment. This allows programming to consider a wide range of possibilities and explore unconventional approaches to problem-solving.
Srokowska adds, “We have observed that AI lacks typical ‘personality’ traits. Without its own agenda, preconceived notions, and biases, it also lacks the positive aspects of ‘personality,’ such as emotions, personal values, or a desire for change. Therefore, we should view AI as an advanced tool in generating potential solutions, rather than relying solely on it to make decisions.”
Furthermore, assistive technologies include tools for speech recognition, screen reading, and other technologies for improving accessibility for people who need them most. Computers can assist in tracking and reporting diversity metrics within an organization with data to help identify areas that require attention, measure progress, and hold organizations accountable for their DE&I initiatives.
Technology makes it easier to identify previously missed favouritism and therefore promotes a more diverse and inclusive staff complement. This in turn stimulates creativity and innovation. When leaders grasp the connection between AI and DE&I they can actively encourage the inclusion of diverse viewpoints.
“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzzwords; they are fundamental values that drive innovation and success in today’s business landscape. Embracing diversity of thought, backgrounds and perspectives is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a strategic imperative for companies looking to thrive in a rapidly changing world.” – Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.
However, AI systems are not immune to biases and can inadvertently replay preconceived beliefs. These algorithms are designed to learn from data, and if the data used to train is unbalanced, it can maintain and amplify those biases. This can result in discrimination affecting marginalized groups disproportionately and potentially skewed results that reinforce inequalities.
Algorithms can learn to identify and mitigate biases in recruitment, performance evaluations, and decision-making processes which reduces unconscious biases and creates a fairer environment.
C-Suite should be aware of diversity and any inherent prejudice in the development team, while regular audits and testing of systems can identify and rectify any discriminatory outcomes.
The use of AI tools to strengthen diversity would depend on the company culture and how committed it is to equal representation across, age, race, disability, ethnicity, and gender. This may attract a higher number of prospects and increase the quality of candidates. When companies are committed to inclusion, AI provides tools that affect change with measurable results.
In Srokowska’s opinion, “Whilst robots may replace many jobs, AI will undoubtedly create the need for others. Individuals responsible for working with AI, understanding its algorithms, and providing training will likely play more critical roles in the future. It is essential for C-level executives to be able to articulate and understand how organizational values align with the application of machine learning and the use of AI.”
Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company, implemented an AI-driven tool to reduce biases in their hiring process. They recognized that unconscious biases could influence decision-making during candidate screening. To address this, they developed an AI system that screens job applications based on predetermined criteria, removing any demographic information that could trigger bias.
By anonymizing candidate data, the AI tool focuses solely on qualifications and skills, allowing for a more inclusive assessment of applicants. This approach helps to minimize the impact of unconscious biases and creates a more diverse talent pool. Unilever’s implementation of this AI-driven hiring tool demonstrates how technology can be leveraged to promote DE&I in the HR domain.
AI in DE&I is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s merely a tool that minimizes possible prejudice and blind-sided favouritism. While technology has huge potential it should fit with the goals and aspirations of each organisation and when it comes to recruitment nothing beats a human connection.