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New technologies take aim at IT’s diversity problem

Terena Bell | Nov. 27, 2017
From the job description to the workplace, female entrepreneurs are designing new tools to mitigate bias in hiring, company culture and decision making.

Toward a true meritocracy

For an alternate way to track this, there’s Baloonr, a polling platform cofounded by Amanda Greenberg, CEO. Greenberg says in her last job, she saw firsthand how gender bias “negatively impacted the bottom line of the company.” No matter how many women her employer hired, their voices were never heard: “Ideas and feedback were evaluated differently based on whose they were.”

So Greenberg built software that keeps the originator of an idea hidden until management has accepted or rejected it on merit alone. Employees log in the platform, anonymously provide project input, then up-vote ideas they agree with. Only after an idea’s selected does the system show who it came from. “We create an idea meritocracy by using a unique flow, components of anonymity and randomization,” she says.

In this meritocracy, business operations become more effective. Greenberg claims blind idea generation “replaces in-person meetings, shortens meeting times. It speeds up product and project work.” Women no longer have to wonder if gender is why their idea was dismissed. Tools like Baloonr also put an end to “manpeating” — a practice where a female employee’s idea is shot down, just to be accepted after a male employee immediately rephrases it.

According to Greenberg, “There are dozens of types of bias that drive down decision making, that stall innovation and creativity. ... What looks like a lack of employee knowledge in the employer’s mind may be a lack of safety in the employee’s.” In other words, if a woman isn’t speaking up, don’t assume she doesn’t have anything to say.

“Bias mitigation is the next wave of productivity,” she proclaims. “Drive an inclusive culture and employees will share ideas. Encourage a speak-up culture and you’ll get a more innovative culture.” You’ll also retain more of those female hires you worked so hard to attract. “Bias has an impact on the bottom line,” she concludes, “Enlightened leaders really understand bias has a negative impact on productivity and innovation. From hiring to retention ... in every aspect, groups must eliminate anchoring bias and be deliberate in how they think.”

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