Fairness and equality in the workplace are decreasing. AI can help.

Milena Jabůrková (left) & Elvyra Šitel (right)

Recent studies show that despite all the effort, gender equality in the workplace is not only not advancing but also decreasing. This situation has been, indeed, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent panel discussion with high-level representatives from EU institutions, employers, and governments from Central and Eastern Europe was held to address the issue and the opportunities AI opens up in the field of Human Resources. The online event named Equal Opportunity in the Age of AI was supported by IBM (NYSE: IBM).

According to IBM’s recently released study “Women, leadership, and missed opportunities,” gender equity is still not a top business priority for 70% of organizations. Moreover, the study shows that the number of women in the leadership pipeline is shrinking, indicating that gender inequality in leadership is worsening. Fewer women hold senior vice president, vice president, director, and manager roles in 2021 than they did in 2019. This particularly applies to the CEE region, as shown in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. A ranking that is a part of the 2021 issue of the Report puts the Czech Republic on rank 78, with Poland being 75th and Hungary 99th. Slovenia, which landed in 41st place, ranked between Bulgaria (38th) and Croatia (45th), which means that the participation of women in Slovenia is close to the world average. However, we can still see differences in some areas.

“Inequality is not only unfair, but it can poison a company’s culture, hamper innovation and slow down its progress. Responsible businesses cannot be silent. There are many best practices to ensure employees are treated fairly and equally. Technologies like AI play an important role in this process. Now, business representatives should support European Institutions and national governments to make sure that the EU will be able to take the lead in using advanced technology to achieve equality, diversity, and inclusion in business as well in public institutions,” explains IBM’s Milena Jabůrková, Vice-President Digital Economy and Education at the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic.

“IBM has a long-standing practice of pay equity and is firmly committed to equal pay for equal work, which has been part of our global policy since 1935. As a digital company, we use technologies to fulfill this commitment. For example, we developed AI-based tools like ‘The Compensation Advisor’ with Watson, which brings together all relevant factors such as employee skills, pay competitiveness, local market dynamics, performance, potential, and more. AI helps us to not only compare salaries between men and women in each peer group or discover possible differences in average pay, but also to design and execute best practices in compensation, hiring, promotion, and career development to prevent pay inequity from emerging in the first place,” says Elvyra Šitel, AI in HR expert in IBM Global Business Services and one of the panelists.

IBM’s research, as well as public policy and thought leadership activities in the field of AI ethics, include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • IBM was one of only two industry representatives to contribute to the High-Level Expert Group on AI, advising the European Commission on a regulatory framework for AI.
  • IBM has consistently called for clear rules in this field, as outlined in IBM Policy Lab’s position ‘Precision Regulation for Artificial Intelligence‘. 
  • IBM Research has launched technologies like AI Fairness 360 (AIF 360), AI Explainability 360 (AIX 360), and the Adversarial Robustness Toolkit to help organizations check for and correct bias in AI systems.
  • The company is advancing its concept of AI Factsheets, which provide transparency on AI systems similar to that found in nutrition labels.
  • IBM also released an Everyday Ethics for Artificial Intelligence guide, a first-of-its-kind resource that will help all AI designers and developers ask the right questions about the social and ethical aspects of the technology they create.

The online conference Equal Opportunity in the Age of AI took place on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The entire discussion is accessible at this link