In the News: Hiring Chatbots for Hiring Does Not Avoid Bias, and More

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This newsletter provides a monthly recap of the biggest headlines about women and computing, news about NCWIT, and links to resources to equip you as change leaders for increasing women’s participation in technology. Practices or content of the news presented are not vetted or endorsed by NCWIT.


NCWIT News and Opportunities


Calling all 9th-12th grade women and educators, as well as college women in tech! 2018 Aspirations in Computing (AiC) award applications are open.

Use info and messaging in the latest AiC newsletter to help us spread the word to all those eligible to receive prizes and recognition for all that they do (or want to do) in computing.

The NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program is supported nationally by Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions Foundation, Northrop Grumman, Qualcomm, and the Symantec Corporation.


The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) // October 4-6 // Orlando, Florida

Inspired by the legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, GHC is designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. And once again, NCWIT will be there — presenting, celebrating, and recommending ways for change leaders to increase diversity in tech:


News on the Radar


Hiring Chatbots for Hiring Does Not Avoid Bias

An article in Wired this month looked at ways in which Silicon Valley companies are seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) in hiring practices to reduce bias and increase diversity. 

AI chatbots can interview and evaluate job candidates much like a recruiter, though without the subconscious judgments that humans might make. Other AI tools can employ intelligent video- and text-based software to predict high job performers by extracting as many as 25,000 data points from video interviews.

Of course, there’s a caveat: AI is only as good as the data that powers it, and that data is generated by humans: the same humans whose biases — whether overt or subconscious — employers are seeking to avoid in the first place.

Ultimately, if AI recruiting tools result in improved productivity, they’ll become more widespread. But, it won’t be enough for companies to simply adopt AI and trust that it will yield more fair recruitment.

“We try not to see AI as a panacea,” says Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the executive director of ReadySet, an Oakland-based diversity consultancy. “AI is a tool, and AI has makers, and sometimes AI can amplify the biases of its makers and the blindspots of its makers.” Hutchinson adds that in order for tools to work, “the recruiters who are using these programs [need to be] trained to spot bias in themselves and others.” Without such diversity training, the human recruiters just impose their biases at a different point in the pipeline.

NCWIT’s Women in Tech: The Facts provides more information on how to recognize and reduce bias in hiring practices.Other resources include:


The Comprehensive Case for Investing More VC Money in Women-led Startups

A recent Harvard Business Review article by NCWIT’s Wendy DuBow and Allison-Scott Pruitt discussed how the lopsided gender composition of U.S. venture capital (VC) firms can affect their bottom lines. Only 8 percent of such firms have female partners, and evidence suggests that having no female partners makes them less likely to invest in female-founded or female-led firms. But, evidence also suggests that female-led firms may have a higher rate of return on average than male-led firms.

As an example, First Round Capital highlights its success at funding more women entrepreneurs than the national average. According to First Round Capital’s review of its own holdings, female founders’ companies outperformed their male peers’ by 63 percent, in terms of creating value for investors. And, a study conducted by the Small Business Association determined that venture firms that invested in women-led businesses had more positive performances than firms that did not.

Other research shows that venture capital firms with a female partner are more than twice as likely as firms without a female partner to invest in a company with a woman on the management team (34 percent vs 13 percent), and they are three times as likely to invest in women CEOs (58 percent vs 15 percent). So, the lack of women investing partners in VC firms is not only a problem of homogeneity within VC firms, but also has significant implications for whose ideas VC firms support.

Although more research is needed to fully understand the influence of gender on VC funding and which factors determine an entrepreneur’s financial success, Wendy and Allison-Scott recommend that VC firms avoid unconscious bias about “lack-of-fit” as at least one step to take. They can use blind resumes, for example, just as orchestras did in the 1970s.

Rebranding STEM Careers

recent article on HR Dive discussed ways that companies and educators can better communicate to candidates and students about what computing jobs are and why they are worth pursuing.

Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer of Randstad North America — whose research shows that many of the misconceptions about STEM careers come from outdated, negative ideas about what these jobs entail — believes that students should be encouraged to think about the wider applications of their skills. “One thing we need to push heavily is getting back to our schools and traditional STEM classes and emphasize how they apply to the business world,” he stated. “There are a lot of cool jobs that apply to STEM careers; young people just don’t see the connection.”

Stukalsky also suggests having curriculum developers work more closely with companies to ensure that the learning materials presented to students are aligned with real-world examples of computing careers, and offering open houses to invite candidates to “try on” computing jobs to see what they are really about.

Mentoring is another important factor. Companies that want to rebrand notions around computing careers may want to form mentoring groups, conduct outreach with local high schools and colleges, and provide access to in-house community events to create more positive ideas around their industries.

Last, Stukalsky suggests that companies cast a wider net to increase diversity by focusing on communicating opportunities for disabled individuals, veterans, men, women, minorities and those from other diverse backgrounds.

NCWIT has several resources for relating computing careers to students’ real-world interests, including:

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