Adopting Technology for a Diverse & Inclusive Culture

Recent times when we think of technology, we hear about big data, artificial intelligence & robots, machine learning & speech recognition, precision healthcare & genomes, blockchain & cryptocurrencies, consumer & industrial internet of things to name a few of the technology trends. These technologies are evolving businesses, creating new markets and addressing customer needs. The same technologies are also used as game changers to attract, develop, and retain diverse talent.

However recruiting diverse employees is just the beginning, what really matters is how well diversity is accepted & embraced by the organization. This is where technology is proving to be a valuable tool to create a workplace environment promoting inclusion of diverse employees. Here are few examples of how organizations are embracing technology for a diverse inclusive culture:

  • To avoid the unconscious bias during recruitment, Unilever stopped visiting the campus for young talent recruitment. Instead they relied on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to scout for early career individuals. The company used social media platform to advertise the roles, online gaming to assess decision making skills, screened videos instead of resumes using AI to assess softer skills. Through this tech based recruitment, they made 450+ hires across the globe with a significantly high percentage of gender diversity.
  • Shortage of skilled engineers is often a reason for the low percent of gender diversity in the engineering workforce. A College in Rajasthan, addressed the huge demand for solar power engineers by training hundreds of rural uneducated women from across 63 countries, teaching them solar technology.  The trainer taught them to match the colour & number of items to assemble, build & repair solar lanterns for rural homes. These women now install solar power based appliances in their villages fulfilling the role of a solar power engineer. 
  • A fully inclusive workplace needs to be contemporary yet universal in design, integrating disability-specific accommodations for the specially challenged employees. Implementing technologies for the visually challenged: 3D printed Braille labels, specially designed computer keyboard with Braille scripts, AI-based mobile app (‘Seeing AI’ from Microsoft) can go a long way in making them feel comfortable and better interact with teammates & work with productivity.  Nearly 70 million specially challenged people across the world communicate in sign languages. Tech devices with 3D camera & machine learning algorithms can convert sign language into text and vice versa. Such devices help people to communicate and connect with speech-impaired & hearing-impaired individuals even though they don’t understand sign language. These tech-based specialized products & communication devices create a more inclusive workplace towards the specially challenged employees. 
  • As a step towards making healthcare more inclusive, Dr. Richard Greene, Director at NYU Langone Medical Center, recruited a transgender individual to present a medical illness case study from the trans community. Such a simulated approach added value for the medical students increasing their awareness & sensitivity towards transgender care. 
  • Flexibility in terms of work hours and work location is critical in everyone’s life, considering some cities have a mobility of 8 km per hour! Organizations need to actively adopt hi-tech tools to engage employees from remote locations, thus making it productive for both the employee and the employer. A recent tech innovation from a Google patent, claims a videoconferencing “telepresence” drone for collaborating with people working remotely. The drone basically operates from the remote location carrying a projection system for beaming images from the remote pilot onto walls, as well as an audio system for communication. Some companies are even implementing augmented reality technologies to develop telecommuting devices.

Technology has immense potential to be a diversity unifier, eliminating workplace bias while strengthening inclusion. Creating a technology driven workplace environment that appreciates diversity for the value it brings to the organization is a goal for most big players. All companies with the aim to better design future products including the robots & AI machines, would benefit tremendously by embracing tech-led diversity & inclusivity.

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Parnasree Maiti is a technologist with 15 years in the Corporate R&D. She is currently the Founder Director for STEP Edge, a short news platform on science & technology trends. To know more about her thoughts on technology trends visit the STEP Edge website www.stepedge.in.