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How to level the gender playing field in tech (and other industries)

(BUSINESS NEWS) One job search site has a reasonable answer to solving the gender gap problem in today’s workforce, and others should take note.

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As an employer, you should be screening employees based on qualifications and preferences, not a candidate’s gender. This seems obvious, but even the most well-meaning employers and recruiters are subject to the curse of implicit bias.

Implicit bias comes into play when unconscious attitudes or stereotypes about someone’s gender, sex, race, ethnicity, age, religion or other identifying features are used to judge that individual’s competency. This is different from known biases, where a person is aware of any stereotypes they may believe, but may choose to not disclose their views.

Major universities including Harvard and Yale teamed up to create Project Implicit, a series of implicit-association tests (IAT) to detect implicit bias through a series of quick associations. Their popular Gender-Career IAT “often reveals a relative link between family and females and between career and males.”

The test has users pair pre-established names of men and women with family and career words. Test takers are prompted in one round to quickly match pre-categorized masculine names with words typically associated with family, while the next may have users pair feminine names with career words.

Based on hesitation and accuracy, users get an interpretation of their potential implicit biases. This comes into play with employee screening, where something as simple as seeing a name on a resume can influence an employer, even in the absence of known biases.

In a Skidmore University study, social psychologist Corrine Moss-Racusin created two identical, fictitious resumes for a lab manager position. The resumes only differed in name, with one fake applicant named Jennifer, the other John.

Different versions were sent out to STEM professors across the country for evaluation. Overall, the “Jennifer” resume received less interest, and was recommended a salary that was on average $4000 less than the identical “John” resume.

Implicit gendered bias was even present in women scientists who participated in reviewing the resumes. In the STEM field, women are underrepresented. Especially in tech, men are disproportionally hired over women.

So what can be done to level the playing field for gender when even a name could make employers think women candidates are less qualified?

Stop looking at names when initially researching a candidate. Okay, I know this is easier said than done and isn’t feasible if you’re screening through normal process of resume submission and in-person hiring events.

But if you use an online source, more platforms are offering solutions for fairer hiring practices that allow you to blind screen employees during initial rounds.

For example, job search site Woo offers anonymity for prospective employees, only revealing a candidate’s name and profile with their permission. During the initial pairing process, skills and background are shared, but other details are not available.

When setting up a talent profile, potential employees fill out a wish list, telling Woo about ideal opportunities, like higher salary, company culture, or desire to work with new technology. Likewise, employers set up their profile to reflect what their different positions can offer.

Using an AI algorithm, Woo calibrates employer with employee preferences to make relevant offers. During this step, user’s identities are hidden until they find an opportunity that matches preferences and actively choose to share their expanded profile with that company.

Woo even adjusts education and work history “so that it’s completely generic and less personal” to provide further identity cloaking. (Bonus: if you’re job hunting on the DL, Woo won’t pair you with current or past employers.)

This means employers can’t apply implicit or explicit bias based on name or profile information that may reveal personal details like gender or race.

Once a user chooses to share this information, employers are free to Google and social media hunt the prospective employee to their heart’s content.

Until then, talent benefits from being seen solely for their skills and experience. This can help level the playing field, especially in the tech industry, which is notoriously skewed towards hiring men.

Major companies like Lyft, Wix, and Microsft are already using Woo, and the service is available to employees in the United States and Israel.

Other job sites should consider scrubbing personal details like gender and name for initial searches and matches when showing results to employers. This can help eliminate bias based on gender and other personal factors.

If you’re seeking a job, you can use Woo for free. Employers can submit info to get contacted by Woo about joining up and staring a better, bias free recruitment process.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Everyone should have an interview escape plan

(BUSINESS NEWS) A job interview should be a place to ask about qualifications but sometimes things can go south – here’s how to escape when they do.

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interview from hell

“So, why did you move from Utah to Austin?” the interviewer asked over the phone.

The question felt a little out of place in the job interview, but I gave my standard answer about wanting a fresh scene. I’d just graduated college and was looking to break into the Austin market. But the interviewer wasn’t done.

“But why Austin?” he insisted, “There can’t be that many Mormons here.”

My stomach curled. This was a job interview – I’d expected to discuss my qualifications for the position and express my interest in the company. Instead, I began to answer more and more invasive questions about my personal life and religion. The whole ordeal left me very uncomfortable, but because I was young and desperate, I put up with it. In fact, I even went back for a second interview!

At the time, I thought I had to put up with that sort of treatment. Only recently have I realized that the interview was extremely unprofessional and it wasn’t something I should have felt obligated to endure.

And I’m not the only one with a bad interview story. Slate ran an article sharing others’ terrible experiences, which ranged from having their purse inspected to being trapped in a 45 minute presentation! No doubt, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mistreatment by potential employers.

So, why do we put up with it?

Well, sometimes people just don’t know better. Maybe, like I was, they’re young or inexperienced. In these cases, these sorts of situations seem like they could just be the norm. There’s also the obvious power dynamic: you might need a job, but the potential employers probably don’t need you.

While there might be times you have to grit your teeth and bear it, it’s also worth remembering that a bad interview scenario often means bad working conditions later on down the line. After all, if your employers don’t respect you during the interview stage, it’s likely the disrespect will continue when you’re hired.

Once you’ve identified an interview is bad news, though, how do you walk out? Politely. As tempting as it is to make a scene, you probably don’t want to go burning bridges. Instead, excuse yourself by thanking your interviewers, wishing them well and asserting that you have realized the business wouldn’t be a good fit.

Your time, as well as your comfort, are important! If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is. It isn’t easy, but if a job interview is crossing the line, you’re well within your rights to leave. Better to cut your losses early.

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Business News

Australia vs Facebook: A conflict of news distribution

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a contentious battle for news aggregation, Australia works to find agreement with Facebook.

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News open on laptop, which Australia argues Facebook is taking away from.

Australia has been locked in a legal war against technology giants Google and Facebook with regard to how news content can be consumed by either entity’s platforms.

At its core, the law states that news content being posted on social media is – in effect – stealing away the ability for news outlets to monetize their delivery and aggregate systems. A news organization may see their content shared on Facebook, which means users no longer have to visit their site to access that information. This harms the ability for news production companies – especially smaller ones – from being able to maintain revenue and profit, while also giving power to corporations such as Facebook by allowing them to capitalize on their substantial infrastructure.

This is a complex subject that can be viewed from a number of angles, but it essentially asks the question of who should be in control of information on a potentially global scale, and how the ability to share such data should be handled when it passes through a variety of mediums and avenues. Put shortly: Australia thinks royalties should be paid to those who supply the news.

Australia has maintained that under the proposed laws, corporations must reach content distribution deals in order to allow news to be spread through – as one example – posts on Facebook. In retaliation, Facebook completely removed the ability for users to post news articles and stories. This in turn led to a proliferation of false and misleading information to fill the void, magnifying the considerable confusion that Australian citizens were confronted with once the change had been made.

“In just a few days, we saw the damage that taking news out can cause,” said Sree Sreenivasan, a professor at the Stony Brook School of Communication and Journalism. “Misinformation and disinformation, already a problem on the platform, rushed to fill the vacuum.”

Facebook’s stance is that it provides value to the publishers because shared news content will drive users to their sites, thereby allowing them to provide advertising and thus leading to revenue.

Australia has been working on this bill since last year, and has said that it is meant to equalize the potential imbalance of content and who can display and benefit from it. This is meant to try and create conditions between publishers and the large technology platforms so that there is a clearer understanding of how payment should be done in exchange for news and information.

Google was initially defiant (threatening to go as far as to shut off their service entirely), but began to make deals recently in order to restore its own access. Facebook has been the strongest holdout, and has shown that it can leverage its considerable audience and reach to force a more amenable deal. Australia has since provided some amendments to give Facebook time to seek similar deals obtained by Google.

One large portion of the law is that Australia is reserving the right to allow final arbitration, which it says would allow a mediator to set prices if no deal could be reached. This might be considered the strongest piece of the law, as it means that Facebook cannot freely exercise its considerable weight with impunity. Facebook’s position is that this allows government interference between private companies.

In the last week – with the new agreements on the table – it’s difficult to say who blinked first. There is also the question of how this might have a ripple effect through the tech industry and between governments who might try to follow suit.

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