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How tech companies are removing bias and equipping DEI initiatives

It’s time companies look at the foundation of their DEI efforts and apply technology to support their goals.

How tech companies are removing bias and equipping DEI initiatives
[Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock]

Technology and finance companies have not been known for their diversity. According to Pew Research center, STEM fields show a slow progression toward greater diversity, lagging behind other industries.

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While many companies (across industries) have made DEI a priority, few have understood the rigorous changes that must happen in order to meet goals. Diversity, equity, and inclusion will not happen unless companies overhaul their processes, leverage technology, and build business models with DEI in mind.

A few companies are using technology to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace environments. Technology is growing smarter each day, and leaders have learned to leverage technology in decision-making processes. In the financial technology industry, companies have brought in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to level the playing field in terms of financial and technological access. This technology helps companies reach historically underserved communities with the financial and technological resources they need to promote equal opportunities.

Here’s how three leading technology companies I follow and respect are leveraging technology to create stronger DEI efforts.

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THEY’RE CREATING TECHNOLOGY WITH DEI IN MIND

One of the best ways to solve a widespread problem is to make changes at the foundation and work your way up. One challenge that is driving inequity in finance is unequal access to essential technology and services. According to a report from the Global Findex Database, 1.7 billion adults across the globe lack access to financial or payment accounts. Without access to necessary financial management services and technology, these adults are limited in opportunities for money management and security.

Leading fintech company FIS went to the foundation of the problem and created a banking product that helps underserved communities access critical financial advice, information, and services. The company has served alongside other banking and financial institutions to help launch Greenwood, a platform designed to provide banking services to Black and Latino individuals and business owners.

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FIS started from the ground up to build a more equitable financial system. They’ve invested $150 million to back new ventures and created a fintech accelerator in Arkansas, which is designed to open doors for diverse creators and partners. The organization’s technology was designed to promote DEI, and they have intentionally leveraged their service to benefit historically underserved minority communities.

LEADERS ARE MAKING AI MORE RESPONSIBLE BY LOOKING OUT FOR BIASES

Since the invention of AI, people have wondered about the consequences or challenges that may come with such advanced technology. Specifically, if AI is created by people—all of whom have inherent biases—will the machine learning technology also embody those biases? This is an essential question that financial and tech companies should be asking.

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The foundation of this issue is trust. Can consumers trust that technology leaders are looking out for their best interests and combatting biases where they may already exist? That’s the question ATB Ventures, an innovation lab that I have been following for years, asks as they evaluate AI.

Through their research, the lab found that AI technology must involve multiple checks and balances to ensure that biases are identified and then mitigated at the same rate that AI is being built. In order to have a clear picture of DEI efforts and their efficacy, leaders must pull from multiple data sets and sources and process them for critical information about potential biases. This is an ongoing process that companies must implement, especially if they are using AI because the technology is constantly evolving. ATB Ventures developed a program to work alongside companies as they develop AI products to prevent the development of biases and inequities. Turning Box is an advanced framework that provides a unified, end-to-end monitoring system for AI models that helps companies identify and assess AI models and how they are used.

It’s essential that industry leaders assess and monitor potential biases in their technology. And while this is pertinent in the financial sector, it’s true across all industries. Without a clear picture and regular monitoring of AI technology models, leaders may be undermining their DEI efforts by letting implicit bias seep into their AI.

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ORGANIZATIONS ARE USING TECHNOLOGY TO VALIDATE THE INFORMATION 

There’s a vast amount of information online in 2022, and plenty of that information is false or driven by scams. This can skew data and disrupt access to essential resources, especially for historically underrepresented groups. That’s why it’s essential for technology and finance companies to monitor for fraud, human error, or false information. When incorrect or falsified information is used in financial industries, it can adversely affect access to necessary products and information.

I’ve watched one technology company, Inscribe, address how dire incorrect or falsified information can be, and come up with a solution so that leading financial institutions can verify the accuracy and legitimacy of important information. Their technology leverages AI to determine if documents are trustworthy, valid, and accurate. Financial companies file through thousands—if not millions—of documents on a daily basis to determine critical information about their existing and prospective customers. This information affects where money is distributed, how services are provided, and who gets access to financial information and tools.

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If, however, those documents are false or incorrect, it can skew the data and affect how the financial company distributes assets. This is a critical problem, especially when we consider the importance of equal access to financial products.

Across industries, leaders are prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion, but do they have the tools necessary to back up their efforts? In the financial sector—where endless data and information is dispersed and filtered each day—it’s critical to support DEI efforts with smart, equitable, and functional technology. It’s time companies look at the foundation of their DEI efforts and apply technology to support their goals.


Shama is the CEO of Zen Media, a B2B PR and marketing firm for technology-driven B2B brands, a best-selling author, & a keynote speaker.

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