A Case for Artificial Diversity Intelligence
Black people and female founders are the least likely to get funded by private equity. A paltry 0.64% of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019 went to Black and Latinx women combined. I know this from statistical research and from personal experience. I believe that if machines are the messengers, investors and corporate customers may be more likely to trust our expertise and our products.
The diversity, equity, inclusion(DEI) and human resources (HR) fields are overrepresented by women and people of color. By sheer virtue of experience and numbers, we are the experts in these and related fields. Between the ongoing slaughter of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) by police and vigilantes, and the perniciousness of anti-trans and misogynistic sexism — Transgender, assigned female at birth (AFAB) and BIPOC folks represent voices not heard and respected enough by society to be allowed access to the levers of change that will fix our broken systems. Repairing our broken economy, planet, corporations, and communities is precisely what countless members of our communities are working to accomplish.
There’s a fantastic trend of BIPOC, AFAB, and LGBTQIA+ founders turning to algorithms to prove our respective cases for inclusion and address the disparate impact bias has on our communities. TMI Consulting Inc’s technology, Loom the Culture Map®, crosses decades of experience leading corporate culture change initiatives with machine learning to diagnose and address organizational culture. Loom maps, measures, and helps improve workplace culture through a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) lens. Mitigating the risk of coding bias into the tech has been a chief priority. This is why we are aggressively intentional about prioritizing the multivariate diversity of the coders, designers, data analysts, psychologists, scientists, and subject matter experts who co-create the Loom software experience.
Despite the rapid proliferation of Chief Diversity Officers (CDO) in corporate America, leaders often remain unready and unwilling to embrace sustainable accountability for the wellbeing and advancement of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ employees and suppliers. CEOs sometimes act as if it’s impossible to understand how to treat people with respect and allow for the equitable advancement and hiring of representative populations. The obstacles are real, but they are not insurmountable. Honestly, it’s more an issue of will than capacity. Companies that fail to prioritize and address diversity concerns simply do not want to.
There are enough data and expertise to support inclusive change. Both effort and budget are required to actualize. There’s a direct relationship between investment (time/energy/budget) and efficacy. The cheaper and easier your initiative, the less substantive and sustainable the results. The more centralized and concentrated the effort is in one person, the more likely it is to fail. JEDI victories are team endeavors. Unfortunately, the faces at the top of the organizations in most urgent need of JEDI support, do not look like the faces of the aforementioned diversity and HR experts. This means that leadership’s personal bias may prevent them from:
- Taking our messages seriously
- Connecting with us
- Accepting our expertise
- Experiencing us as credible authorities
- Seeing past identity without dismissing it
The usual suspects are hired, promoted and trusted because they are a pattern match for familiarity bias. Many organizational leaders are hesitant to hire or promote BIPOC, gender minorities, and LGBTQIA+ people because they lack the cultural fluency to communicate well across differences. This is how JEDI hires get sidelined and disempowered. Leadership fears the discomfort and discord inherent to change, while forgetting that challenging the status quo is precisely the path to innovation. Companies that close gender and racial gaps outperform those that lack diversity.
Artificial intelligence is blazing a path for previously unheard voices to rise above the fears and doubts of the old guard. The customized culture map generated by Loom the Culture Map® is affectionately dubbed the Chief Diversity Officer’s Dream, because the algorithm offers the CDO a quantifiable action plan derived from decades of JEDI research. As long as data collection, analysis, and reporting are conducted with integrity and scientific rigor, it’s far less refutable than subjective opinion. I wish executives cared as much about employees feelings and wellbeing as they care about data and profit, but they don’t.
There will always be a place for personal narrative and qualitative data. But the native language of enterprise is numbers driven. The quants rule Wall Street. The new era of corporate influencers and change-makers are leveraging metrics in service of accountable and actionable inclusion. Mr. CEO may not understand my vibrant personality, my fantasy hair color, or my international upbringing — but he certainly understands statistical significance and impact of the data case I make for inclusion when it’s presented it in a language that he understands. Folks seem to have more bias against human messengers than digital ones.
When a statistically significant percentage of your employees respond to our survey and anonymously disclose their experiences and competencies, your JEDI team can take control of the narrative and edit reality in service of a more inclusive and accountable culture. We protect employee identities in numerous ways, and we never give clients raw data. Integrity is integral, so any corporation demanding the raw data is immediately disqualified from using our tools. We’ve had a couple of Fortune listed companies eliminated from our client roster for making such demands.
Another advantage of being an external diversity consultant is that we cannot be easily bullied into submission — especially when we have a long roster of clients. Internal hires and consultants with only one client have to manage employment-endangering politics. Internal institutional diversity work can pose a conflict of interest if the person charged with speaking truth to power does not report directly to the CEO or if their job depends on compliance rather than transparency. The nature of JEDI work requires courage and resilience. My company loses leads all the time because we make no secret of the fact that we expect our clients to respect that we are organizational doctors with the expertise to diagnose and treat their JEDI malady. Do you tell your cardiac surgeon how to perform surgery on your heart? Of course you don’t. JEDI workers should likewise not be pushed around and told what to do. This is a delicate craft, and those of us who know what we are doing need the latitude to do our jobs. But don’t take my word for it. Ask your employees and let the impartial robots tell you.
Thankfully, digital technology accesses methodology and language that render the bias against the messenger less of a limitation. The usual suspects at the apex of corporate ecosystems trust computers and math more than they trust BIPOC, disabled, LGBTQIA+ people — and they’re getting away with it, for now. This is why we need allies, accomplices, and co-conspirators to keep making room for us while we simultaneously create our own rooms in which to innovate. Either way, the goal is to live and work in a much more gracious and welcoming world than what we have today. I’m betting on the clever, faceless, raceless, genderless machines to help get us there.
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