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Management Technology

How Angela Hood Removes Unconscious Bias with Artificial Intelligence

Tackling unconscious bias is a complicated problem. ThisWay uses artificial intelligence to bridge that gap.

Hiring a diverse workforce is more than a moral obligation. It’s also a proven business strategy for boosting company success. Technology company ThisWay uses artificial intelligence to remove underlying bias during the recruitment and hiring process.

Check out ThisWay’s infographic for more information on championing diversity with AI.

Businesses are behind track

The top 20 most diverse companies in the S&P 500 achieve higher long-term profitability than their less diverse counterparts. Gender diversity makes companies 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation. By 2025, advancing gender equality in the workplace could add $12 trillion to global GDP.

Despite these obvious benefits, 48 percent of businesses either aren’t on track to meet their diversity goals. They may have no goals at all.  Over a third of business executives (37 percent) still claim legal compliance is their primary reason that they support diversity and inclusion initiatives. This indicates a lack of enthusiasm for the mission. That’s a risky outlook for companies, as those with the lowest levels of diversity are 29 percent less likely to see above-average profitability. For a business to succeed, it needs a diverse workforce.

Facing inherent bias

How can companies improve their hiring practices? The first step is to acknowledge the inherent biases in their own system. When humans screen resumes, the recruiters spend an average of seven seconds looking at an individual resume. At that speed, personal bias is sure to influence decision-making. Problems such as similarity bias, the first/last effect, contrast effect and central tendency effect come together to block qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds from moving forward in the hiring process.

Artificial intelligence mends gaps in software

What about the inclusion of software? Does that fix the problem? Not quite. Most applicant tracking systems use a keyword search, and the resumes that do well in this environment may reflect a skilled use of keywords instead of a candidate’s actual qualifications. Synonym searching reduces some biases in the search query, but it’s not a perfect solution. Taken to its worst extreme, artificial intelligence can both learn and exaggerate the bias of its users. In 2018, Amazon scrapped its state-of-the-art recruiting AI after it taught itself to penalize resumes that mentioned the word “woman” and/or all-female colleges. The AI wasn’t programmed to prefer male applicants, but it was trained on 10 years of resumes and hiring decisions. If the data input to an AI is biased, its results will be too.

How can we hire without bias?

To train an AI to work without bias, one needs to start with unbiased data. Ways to make the initial screening less bias prone are:

  • Collect data from varied industries, jobs and candidates
  • Remove factors like age, gender and name from the AI’s view
  • Consider how well a candidate and company fit from both perspectives.

Things human HR professionals can do include:

  • Setting clear, trackable goals for improvement on diversity measures
  • Making diversity training standard and using it as a way to listen to employees
  • Strategically partnering with outside organizations, schools, and colleges.

Right now, 50 percent of HR professionals aren’t prepared at all to incorporate AI, but 100 percent of overlooked candidates are ready to see a change.

About Angela Hood and ThisWay

Angela Hood is the Founder and CEO of ThisWay, a VC-backed, artificial intelligence company built upon her research and development at University of Cambridge in England.

Now operating across the world, ThisWay is the industry leader in providing companies and governments with a suite of integrated solutions that delivers unbiased sourcing and matching instantly.

International research often references her groundbreaking work in artificial intelligence and de-biasing. A Simon & Schuster book released in 2019 also featured her expertise. Hood is an accomplished keynote speaker and recognized expert on the topics of removing bias in technology and the ROI of diversity in teams.

HR tech industry experts named ThisWay as Innovation of the Year. Hood has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech, Entrepreneur of the Year and was recently selected as outstanding entrepreneur and featured by the University of Cambridge, England. In 2020, Hood was nominated for Outstanding Alumni by her undergraduate alma mater, College of Architecture and Dept of Construction Sciences at Texas A&M University.


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