Article: Growing tech dependency can both help and hinder DEI, needs constant monitoring: Hexaware’s Gwen Kolader


Growing tech dependency can both help and hinder DEI, needs constant monitoring: Hexaware’s Gwen Kolader

Technology can help in DEI efforts but may fuel bias and discrimination too and we need to constantly monitor it to ensure fairness, while keeping an eye on the privacy and ethics of using this data, says Gwen Kolader, VP - Global Head Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Hexaware Technologies.
Growing tech dependency can both help and hinder DEI, needs constant monitoring: Hexaware’s Gwen Kolader

Technology has become an indispensable tool in the pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within organisations as it has the potential to drive positive change, break down barriers and create a level playing field.

However, as we embrace technology's transformative capabilities, we must also acknowledge the unintentional biases and discriminatory practices that can arise if left unchecked.

Gwen Kolader, VP - Global Head Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Hexaware Technologies, a global technology and business process services company, says striking a delicate balance between leveraging tech advancements to boost DEI and navigating the ethical concerns they raise is crucial.

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, Kolader explores the pivotal role technology plays in promoting DEI, while delving into the imperative need for ongoing monitoring and accountability to ensure fairness and equality for all.

Edited excerpts:

How can technology help promote DEI in the workplace and how is Hexaware Technologies leveraging it?

When technology is used in a way that is inclusive and accessible to all employees, it can serve as a powerful tool to promote diversity and equity in the workplace. It can make job postings more inclusive by attracting a large pool of diverse candidates. It helps remove biases in the candidate selection process, whether posting for vacancies or reviewing resumes.

We also see a growth in gamification being used as part of the recruitment process.

Technology helps connect employees through resource groups, provides training opportunities, improves communication and collaboration, and collects data to measure progress.

At Hexaware, we prioritise the happiness of our employees and customers by embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity. We want to create smiles through great people and technology. We value people from different backgrounds and experiences, as their unique perspectives make us stronger, and we take responsibility for our actions, challenge bias, and reject unfair decisions. We strive to be inclusive leaders and colleagues, promoting open and honest discussions.

What are some specific technologies that you have seen used to promote DEI in the workplace, and how effective have they been?

Today, technological advancements (especially artificial intelligence (AI) tools) play a crucial role in hiring talents by focusing on an applicant's skills rather than just their resume, which expands the pool of potential candidates. Language analysis tools detect and fix unintended bias in company communications, promoting inclusivity.

AR and VR technology cultivates empathy among employees, fostering understanding and acceptance.

Analytical platforms help organisations track their progress in diversity and identify areas for improvement.

Technologies that improve accessibility for employees with disabilities are also becoming widely important. However, true workplace equity requires a genuine commitment to fostering an inclusive culture, with these technological advancements serving as helpful tools.

How can AI be used to address issues of bias in the workplace, and what are some potential pitfalls to watch out for?

AI can be leveraged to significantly reduce human biases as it promotes more objective decision-making rather than subjective judgments.

It has the ability to effectively analyse data and identify patterns that help with an objective evaluation of the employees’ performances, strengths, and weaknesses. This can help organisations create personalised training programmes and learning experiences to ensure all employees are given equal opportunities for growth and development.

However, AI has also been recognised as biased. The creators of AI toolings and/or the content AI uses (for instance, ChatGPT) can be biased and stereotyping in itself. We should never simply accept, and copy paste any AI driven output.

And we are also aware that AI is not a substitute for essential human skills like empathy, experience, or social and cognitive behaviour. It can also be manipulated by the user if not dealt with ethically, so we do not see it as a replacement for human intervention. I think the most ideal way to go about this is to combine the strengths of both humans and technology to achieve the best results.

What role can virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) play in promoting empathy and understanding across different cultural backgrounds in the workplace?

Today, organisations are well-equipped to leverage the potential of AR and VR to make their workplace more welcoming and understanding for everyone.

By providing immersive experiences that simulate various cultural environments, employees are better positioned to appreciate different cultural nuances. This helps them develop a more profound understanding and empathy toward their colleagues.

With AR and VR, employees are able to effectively collaborate and work on virtual projects with great ease. This enables a diverse set of minds to work together to produce better business outcomes, fostering a sense of teamwork and togetherness.

What are some potential ethical concerns related to using technology to promote DEI in the workplace, and how can these be addressed?

Using tech to boost DEI at work is commendable, but we need to navigate some ethical concerns before we truly get there.

The first step to this is respecting privacy when dealing with sensitive data and being absolutely sure it's secure and used correctly.

And as mentioned, technology can (unintentionally) fuel bias and discrimination, so we need to constantly monitor it to ensure fairness. We also need to acknowledge the fact that not everyone has equal technology access, so we must ensure our solutions are accessible and provide the necessary training to bridge the gap.

Understanding how our technology makes decisions is yet another critical factor in avoiding mistrust. 

We also need to watch for unexpected adverse effects that can occur. To tackle these, we’ll have to set clear data rules, involve diverse voices, check for biases, educate everyone, maintain open communication, and seek expert advice. This way, we can harness the power of technology, promoting a fair and inclusive workplace while avoiding pitfalls.

How can companies measure the effectiveness of the technology they use to promote DEI and what metrics should they be tracking?

It's critical to monitor how successfully our technology promotes DEI at work. It involves checking to determine if everyone in our organisation, even at the top, is diverse. We need to know if everyone feels like a member of the team, and we can determine this by paying attention to what they have to do in tools like surveys or discussions.

Additionally, we should monitor who is taking part in DEI training to see if it is influencing their development. It's crucial to make sure that everyone receives fair evaluations and recognition of their performance in order to encourage long-term retention among employees from various backgrounds and identities.

And, of course, our customers play a massive role here; if they are satisfied, we must be doing something right. We should be transparent about our progress, clear about our objectives, and open to learning from the data. Most importantly, we must make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute to the development of our DEI plan and is aware of its significance.

How do you see the role of technology evolving in the future when it comes to promoting DEI in the workplace?

As we look ahead, tech will play a more personalised and precise role in promoting diversity, fairness, and inclusion at work. For instance, AI could suggest training tailored to each employee's needs and aspirations. The tech could get more competent at spotting any signs of bias in our data, helping us improve.

With advancements in VR and AR, we could create a certain level of experience to walk in each other's shoes, learning about different cultures in a more immersive way.  As this tech gets better, it could become part of our everyday HR tools, creating a smoother experience for all. This means tech will become more vital for creating a fair and inclusive work environment.

As AI and machine learning get more refined, they could spot hidden biases and help us understand our efforts better. As more people work remotely, tech that supports inclusive remote work will be key. We'll also see more tools making work accessible for everyone, regardless of any disabilities.

But as we depend more on tech, we'll also have to think about the privacy and ethics of using this data. Lastly, instead of standalone tools, we'll likely see more integrated solutions that cover all aspects of diversity, fairness, and inclusion at work.

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Topics: Technology, Leadership, #DEIB

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