Common discrepancies in technology today are not sustainable for the present workforce.
When we envisage a room full of innovators in technology, a lot of us depict a scene largely dominated by men. Specifically, white men from affluent backgrounds and privileged educations. This stereotype has helped propagate a technological divide between men and women in the working sphere, and today, allows us to observe further inequalities between rich and poor as well.
Technology rapidly advances and continues to grow in a world that favours digital transformation. However, its advancements expose a myriad of limitations that affects countries and creates a digital skills divide. A popular example to depict this issue is the biases which persist in AI technologies, specifically racial biases whereby systems discriminate against black individuals.
Yet, technology offers immense opportunities to individuals from diverse backgrounds working various jobs in Malta and beyond. E-learning platforms provide education to individuals with lesser educative opportunities and resources. The influx of remote jobs today allows people to work from wherever they feel comfortable. Whilst imperfect, noting technologies current limitations leaves room for purposeful improvement in future developments.
We need to consistently cheer for organisations willing to adapt their technologies to be more accessible and equal to their employees. For leaders to understand the digital divide and its implications in order to work smarter. A recent report by Deloitte (2021) places the onus on leaders to evaluate solutions for current issues surrounding technologies and address these in their organisations, as employees maintain their wishes for further executive support.
Adopting inclusive practices through technology affects numerous components of an organisation, including recruitment, culture, and analytics. The space for technology to thrive affects jobs in various industries, including HR and accounting jobs, software development and IT jobs, etcetera.
Re-thinking technological design
Although we like to think AI and similar technologies have a mind of their own, we as humans are still the controllers behind its design and function. These technologies are vast, too, from complex infrastructural machinery to compact smart devices, where all point to a group of designers, software developers, and so forth. The outcome of careful decision-making, perhaps due to inherent margins of human error, leaves unconscious biases with discriminatory consequences.
As we move to work remotely and largely depend on technologies and software, the issue of stereotypy and discrimination will only grow more pronounced unless these are sufficiently addressed. Individuals responsible for creating technology in whatever sphere need to embark on inclusive approaches that work for design processes that push for equality.
Product and software developer teams are already presented with numerous technological challenges that often need to be addressed under strict deadlines. The addition of more complex and societal challenges can appear intimidating; however, the following can help kickstart an inclusive mindset toward technology:
Work with individuals from diverse backgrounds: empathy is an invaluable quality but is limited to our own possible experiences and still does not supersede biases. We need to actively engage with, and speak to, individuals with different cognitive and physical abilities, various social statuses—to not only understand their truths but use these to inform strategic decisions.
Representation: product teams need to involve individuals from diverse backgrounds. This means focusing teams that are equal in terms of race, gender, and so forth. Evaluate whether your team is a result of privilege and tokenism, have an open discussion to determine this, and use your conversation to include people from various communities. From employer branding to user experience and visual communication, lead your product through the voices of external communities as well as from your own team.
Training: lifelong learning is a worthy investment to understand and explore the meaning in diversity. Team leaders should actively pursue training initiatives that openly discusses team diversity that begins internally. At the end of the day, if you find that teams are made up of individuals with similar or exact characteristics, you will lose out on innovative ideas guided by people from diverse communities.
Accountability: in deciding commitments toward inclusive practices, leaders should set short and long-term goals that holds themselves and other team members accountable in ensuring inclusivity is accomplished. Leaders should openly discuss their targets with teams and specify whether they revolve around racial, gender, and other biases. These explicit conversations are important to ensure collective understanding to have these later accounted for.
In practice, the above can be tricky. This is because leaders need to establish clear and effective communication to abide by inclusive commitments. It’s not enough for leaders to believe in inclusivity, either—rather, organisations must instil values and belief systems that adhere to inclusive and diverse mission statements. Nowadays, in-office and remote job seekers are attracted to companies with clear visions, especially for values like diversity.
Putting technology to work
From a practical perspective, we can use current technologies to work toward inclusivity. A few examples are described hereunder:
Recruitment tools: AI systems such as neural language processing can be used to scout qualified talent with little regard to their personal backgrounds. From hiring processes to onboarding, software tools can assist in eliminating human biases and search through large volumes of data (in this case talent pools).
Digital platforms: leaders can apply social platforms to perform practices like reviews using software that objectively analyses set performance data (be it tasks and targets). In terms of understanding behavioural differences, digital assessments can provide insights into these, and significant findings can be interpreted through statistical software.
Analytics: if we commit and set targets relevant to inclusivity and diversity, we can apply useful analytic tools to measure these after a certain amount of time. We can establish goals and measure performance to inform decisions in actively pursuing better inclusive practices. Data can be used with visualisation software to provide valuable insights to further understand what can be done internally and externally.
It takes a collective front to implement true inclusive practices and close the digital divide presently featured in technologies today. Whilst support through leadership is important, organisations together need to act in order to really make a difference. Eradicating discriminatory practices requires involvement from all team members and employees, especially those in product development, to help create fantastical technology opportunities accessible for all.
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