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Tech for Good: Driving gender equality in the workplace

gender equality, gender balance

By Leena Kalani

On June 7, 1968, female machinists working at Ford Dagenham in London went on strike in protest of the gender pay gap.

The demonstrations eventually resulted in the passing of the UK’s Equal Pay Act of 1970 and subsequently the Equality Act of 2010, which provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all.

Although it’s been over 50 years since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, the issues of gender inequality and pay gap remain. According to the Office for National Statistics UK, the gender pay gap among all employees is 15.5%, which means, on average, women are paid 86p for every £1 paid to men. While employers recognize these gender imbalance issues, they often lack insights into where the pay gaps are, the reasons behind them and the best way to address them.

By leveraging technologies such as Open Banking APIs and machine learning, businesses can be better equipped with the insights needed to achieve their diversity and inclusion objectives.

Using Open Banking to Identify Pay Gaps

Open Banking – which provides third-party financial service providers with access to consumer banking transactions and other financial data through the use of APIS – is a recent advancement in the world of banking and financial services in the UK and EU. As part of this data-sharing service, third-party providers and fintechs can use Open Banking API technology to consolidate data from customers’ multiple bank accounts with their explicit consent. Although Open Banking is predominantly aimed at providing innovation in banking, its potential can be extended to solve the deep-rooted problem of gender inequality.

Employers in the UK and several EU countries are required to report metrics about gender pay gaps to the government or authorized bodies. No such regulations exist as yet for many other regions, however, such as the U.S., Ireland, China, UAE, Austria and Hungary. But in either case, reporting this information doesn’t equate to taking action on it. With technology-driven practices, businesses could gain not just visibility into gender pay gap issues but also clarity into where they’re most acute, which would better inform their strategies on how to close the gap.

Under the Open Banking framework, data-aggregation fintechs (i.e., account information service providers), such as Revolut, Yolt and Plaid, or job posting sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor, could combine forces with regulators or work councils to produce a dashboard highlighting sector-specific metrics on gender pay, as well as insights into areas of discrepancy.

The salary data obtained by data aggregators with the user’s consent could be further enriched with elements such as age, gender, organization, industry sector and job title. This enriched dataset could reveal pay gap trends across industry sectors and job roles.

With such a dashboard freely available in the public domain, businesses would gain vital input for formulating their diversity and inclusion policies and monitoring their progress without having to invest in the technology infrastructure or data gathering themselves.

Financial services organizations and investment firms may also have a role to play, especially new types of businesses like The Big Exchange, an investment firm that invests only in companies that contribute to a positive social and environmental impact. The firm is already leveraging the Open Banking framework to offer an aggregated view of investments to its customers. It could extend this capability to also develop a gender pay gap dashboard, working with regulators through Open Banking standards.

Machine Learning Can Fix the ‘Leaky Pipeline’

Another gender equality issue that could be addressed through technology such as machine learning is “the leaky pipeline,” or the number of women who leave the technology profession. According to the WISE campaign, the percentage of tech professionals who are female has remained consistently low, at 16%, for the past decade. In the UK, although 35% of higher-ed STEM students are women, they make up only 24% of the STEM workforce.

There could be several reasons for women leaking out of STEM careers, including hostile work environments, lack of mentoring, lower recommendations, lower pay and work-life balance issues. These reasons could be discovered through the use of technology tools.

Companies that are already leveraging emerging technologies could feed data attributes like salary, benefits, bonuses, promotions, performance reviews, commute time, family details and maternity details into machine-learning algorithms to score employees on satisfaction levels. These algorithms could predict attrition patterns among its female employees and highlight the underlying reasons for departures by attributes such as department or job level.

By coupling HR data with employee survey data, feedback mechanisms and reviews on job posting sites, businesses could then apply sentiment analysis to identify ways to increase retention among women employees. For instance, analysis might reveal that women were unhappy about overtime and travel but satisfied with pay and management restructuring. Through these insights, organizations could better understand the probability and causes of female attrition and work on focused targets for remediating the issue.

Bringing it into Play

Data-driven insights could provide a jumpstart for informed diversity strategies but technology shouldn’t be considered a silver bullet for resolving gender inequality issues. Bias in data collection could cause unintended discrimination against a particular segment. Businesses need to ensure the right controls and processes are in place so that technology- enabled decisions are fair and accurate.

In my conversations with clients, it is clear  that different organizations have different objectives when it comes to their diversity strategy; some are moving forward because it is the right thing to do while others are seeking tangible business benefits before inching ahead. Either way, research shows that gender diversity is clearly correlated with profitability, but women still remain underrepresented.

With right mix of technology, behavior and cultural change, gender inequality will no longer be a “blind spot.”. From promoting gender balance in decision making to incorporating equal pay, it’s about time we acknowledge the half of our population as equals.

About the Author

Leena KalaniLeena is a senior business consultant at Cognizant supporting banking and financial services clients through their digital transformation journey. A TechWomen100 award winner, she has worked with marquee names in the industry to implement open banking interface, payment modernisation and data governance thereby delivering seamless banking experience to their end users. She is an active contributor in the Thought Leadership space delivering value to businesses through ideas, point solutions and innovation. Between working on various technologies, Leena is also a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion at workplace.

Leena can be reached at [email protected]


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How companies can utilise tech for good to help save the planet

By Marga Hoek

How companies can utilise tech for good to help save the planetAround the globe, companies – from conglomerates to start ups – are transforming to become more sustainable.

This is not only good for the planet, but good for business. Through the Coronavirus crash, we’ve seen sustainable businesses outperform their non-sustainable counterparts.

One of they key ways businesses can make this transition is by leveraging the power of technology. So what are the key technologies to watch out for and how can businesses utilise them?

Robotics

Robotics technology is revolutionising business models across industries – from healthcare to manufacturing – and is on the precipice of enabling economic growth on a global scale. While the primary goal for industries and companies has been utilising robots to improve processes and become more efficient and profitable, it’s also becoming more evident that robotics will be a key way to drive sustainability.

The Growbot, a tree planting robot created by SkyGrow, demonstrates how robots can help in the fight against climate change. It can plant trees 10 times faster than a human, thus reducing labour by around 40% and slashing the cost per tree by roughly half. SkyGrow plans to manufacture 4,500 Growbots to help recover forests around the globe.

Robotics has also proven critical in the recycling of waste from all sectors. Recycling robots have the potential to make approximately 2,000 correct material picks per hour in comparison with humans, who can make about 800 picks per hour. These are just two examples of the myriad ways robots can help us shift towards a circular economy. Watch this space!

AI and Data

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data have the potential to be catalysts in the global effort to address challenging social and environmental issues. Artificially intelligent machines are able to sift through and interpret massive amounts of data from various sources. The technology’s capability to create new insight, to learn and to automate tasks at scale can transform industries and business operations. For instance, AI's capability to analyse high-resolution images from satellites, drones and medical scans have the potential to benefit responses to challenges such as humanitarian emergencies, agricultural scarcity and climate change.[1]

The forest monitoring project Global Forest Watch[2] and the technology non-profit Rainforest Connection[3] are great examples of this. They use machine learning to identify factors that contribute to forest losses in the Congo and the Amazon.

VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR – a completely digital environment) and augmented reality (AR – where digital images are superimposed on the real world) are on the brink of being developed to be the next computing platform.[4] Augmented and virtual reality will influence the lives of millions of people. Most people's experiences of VR and AR today are likely to be in gaming and entertainment. But the development of enterprise extended reality (XR) solutions is overtaking this. In 2020, 65% of AR companies are working on industrial applications, while just 37% working on consumer products and software.[5]

The technology can be used to help build a more sustainable future. For example, Climaure is a project that aims to sensitize people towards climate change, thus triggering sustainable behaviours and providing people with ways to address environmental degradation. It plans to deploy augmented reality installations in public spaces with a high population density. The interactive installation will create a futuristic view, based on open source data available on climate change. It aims to promote a stronger sense of shared ownership towards the local environment in users, through personalized visualizations. The platform has the potential to predict the effects of climate change for the next 20 to 100 years.[6]

In the healthcare sector, Life-Saving Instruction for Emergences (LIFE) is a VR medical training platform developed by doctors, nurses and researchers at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP) in Kenya and at Oxford University. Officially launched in November 2019, LIFE allows healthcare workers to practice life-saving skills via a realistic 3D virtual hospital using the Vive Focus mobile headset.

Businesses must adapt and thrive or deny and die. 2020 will be the decade of sustainability. Technology is improving and costs and lowering – meaning it will become easier for business, whatever their size and wherever they are, to transition to more sustainable models. And the good news is that business for good is good business.

Marga Hoek About the author

Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business, international speaker and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, in hardback and e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com

 

 


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.  

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How to make tech more accessible for all?

Women looking at their phones

Article provided by Rebecca Rae-Evans, co-founder of Tech For Good Live

From banking to food shopping, many of our day-to-day tasks can now be completed online and generally this digital-by-default society is making people’s lives easier and more efficient.

In fact, a third of people have become so accustomed to accessing online services 24/7, from anywhere in the world, that they would feel “cut off” and “lost” without the Internet.

However, as it stands, there are still many people with varying abilities and conditions - from blindness to autism or dementia – that cannot use digital services due to poor design practices and confusing jargon. They are therefore ‘disabled’ by these platforms; as they are unable to access the information they require.

Despite some positive, inclusive design work being carried out across a variety of sectors, such as Network Rail’s implementation of a new accessible app, a recent Ofcom report suggests disabled individuals are being left behind by technology on the whole. This is due to deployment of alienating language and design features.

So what can be done to make the UK’s online services accessible to all?

  • Cater for those with physical or motor impairments – these online services need to minimise the amount of typing required from users. Also, they should make clickable interactive elements large without demanding precision, and design platforms with mobile and touch screen in mind.
  • Be mindful of visually impaired individuals – businesses should ensure websites use a readable font size and a combination of colour, shapes and text, while ensuring to publish all information on web pages as opposed to other document types such as PDFs.
  • Accommodate for autistic users – companies must use day-to-day language – avoiding figures of speech and idioms. They should create a simple colour scheme and make sure layouts are consistent and uncluttered.
  • Adapt services for customers that are hard of hearing – businesses must provide access to subtitles or transcripts to accompany videos, break up content with sub-headings, images and video and avoid complex layouts and menus.

People with ranging abilities should also be invited to take part in usability sessions throughout the design process. This will help businesses to assess how effective certain features are and will highlight areas that need to be improved or removed altogether.

Going forward, if businesses take these changes into consideration when developing their online presence and start implementing them as soon as possible, we can expect to see a dramatic improvement in digital inclusivity across the board.