How tech companies are eliminating bias and equipping DEI initiatives
Technology and financial companies are not known for their diversity. According to the Pew Research Center, STEM fields show a slow progression towards greater diversity, lagging behind other industries.
While many companies (across industries) have made DEI a priority, few have understood the rigorous changes that must occur to achieve the goals. Diversity, equity and inclusion will only happen if companies review their processes, leverage technology and create business models with DEI in mind.
A few companies are using technology to create more diverse, fair and inclusive work environments. Technology is getting smarter every day and leaders have learned how to leverage technology in decision-making processes. In the fintech sector, companies have introduced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to level the playing field in terms of financial and technological access. This technology helps companies reach historically underserved communities with the financial and technological resources they need to promote equal opportunity.
Here’s how three leading tech companies I follow and respect are leveraging technology to bolster DEI’s efforts.
THEY CREATE TECHNOLOGY WITH DEI IN MIND
One of the best ways to fix a widespread problem is to make changes at the base and move forward. Unequal access to essential technologies and services is one of the challenges driving inequality in the financial sector. According to a report by the Global Findex database, 1.7 billion adults worldwide do not have access to financial or payment accounts. Without access to necessary financial management services and technology, these adults are limited in their options for financial management and security.
Leading fintech company FIS has gotten to the root of the problem and created a banking product that helps underserved communities access critical financial advice, information and services. The company has helped other banking and financial institutions launch Greenwood, a platform designed to provide banking services to Black and Latino individuals and business owners.
The FIS started from scratch to build a fairer financial system. They’ve invested $150 million to support new ventures and created a fintech accelerator in Arkansas designed to open doors for diverse creators and partners. The organization’s technology was designed to promote DEI, and they intentionally leveraged their service to benefit historically underserved minority communities.
LEADERS ARE MAKING AI MORE ACCOUNTABLE BY MONITORING BIAS
Since the invention of AI, people have wondered about the consequences or challenges that can arise from such advanced technology. Specifically, if AI is created by people – all of whom have inherent biases – will machine learning technology embody those biases as well? This is an essential question that financial and technology companies should ask themselves.
The root of this problem is trust. Can consumers be sure that tech leaders are looking out for their best interests and combating bias where it may already exist? That’s the question ATB Ventures, an innovation lab I’ve followed for years, asks as it evaluates AI.
Through their research, the lab discovered that AI technology must involve multiple checks and balances to ensure that biases are identified and then mitigated at the same rate that AI is being built. In order to get a clear picture of DEI efforts and their effectiveness, leaders must pull from multiple data sets and sources and process them to gain critical insights into potential biases. This is an ongoing process for businesses to implement, especially if they are using AI, as the technology is constantly evolving. ATB Ventures has developed a program to work alongside companies as they develop AI products to prevent the development of biases and inequities. Turning Box is an advanced framework that provides a unified end-to-end monitoring system for AI models that helps companies identify and assess AI models and how they are used.
It is critical that industry leaders assess and monitor potential biases in their technology. And while this is relevant in the financial sector, it is true in all industries. Without a clear picture and regular monitoring of AI technology patterns, leaders can undermine their DEI efforts by letting implicit biases seep into their AI.
ORGANIZATIONS USE TECHNOLOGY TO VALIDATE INFORMATION
There is a vast amount of information online in 2022, and a lot of it is fake or scam-driven. This can skew data and disrupt access to critical resources, especially for historically underrepresented groups. That’s why it’s critical for technology and financial companies to monitor for fraud, human error, or misinformation. When incorrect or falsified information is used in the financial industries, it can impede access to needed products and information.
I saw a tech company, Inscribe, explain how disastrous incorrect or falsified information can be and offer a solution for major financial institutions to verify the accuracy and legitimacy of material information. Their technology uses AI to determine if documents are reliable, valid and accurate. Financial firms file thousands, if not millions, of documents daily to determine critical information about their existing and potential customers. This information affects where money is distributed, how services are delivered, and who has access to financial information and tools.
If, however, these documents are false or incorrect, it can skew the data and affect how the financial company distributes the assets. This is a critical issue, especially considering the importance of equal access to financial products.
Across industries, leaders are prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, but do they have the tools to support their efforts? In the financial industry, where endless data and information is scattered and filtered every day, supporting DEI efforts with smart, fair and functional technology is essential. It’s time for companies to examine the foundations of their DEI efforts and apply technology to support their goals.
Shama is the CEO of Zen Media, a B2B marketing and PR firm for technology-driven B2B brands, a best-selling author and keynote speaker.