Diversity and Inclusion Briefing


Technology for Change Week Asia: Applying technology for the social good

8-12 March 2021

The Economist is hosting five days of free online events bringing together over 700 leading policymakers, entrepreneurs and decision makers from major corporations, Big Tech, finance and NGOs. The discussion will explore how technology and data-driven solutions in Asia can ensure that no adult or child is left behind in an increasingly digital world.

Women in Innovation: Closing the gender gap

10 March 2021

The Brookes Inclusion, Diversity and Gender Network is hosting the Athena Swan annual open lecture. Speakers will discuss the UK’s Industrial Strategy goal to become the world’s most innovative economy by 2030, and reflect on what can be done to close the gender gap in the innovation ecosystem.

Technology Taskforce Showcase 2021: Tech for Life

25 March 2021

This online showcase will look at the personal stories of people with dis/abilities and how technology has helped them to overcome barriers both at work and at home. A panel and questions will follow the presentation with speakers from Bristol-Meyers Squibb, AXSChat and more still to be announced.

Rethinking Workplace Diversity: Cultivating an inclusive workforce

8 April 2021

Organisational Psychologist Mollie Tatlow and Neal Verman, HR Director at Chestertons, will discuss the importance of diversity strategy in recruitment and management, as well as the ways in which workplaces can cultivate a diverse, inclusive culture.

Women in FinTech Summit London

15-16 April 2021

This virtual event will discuss the latest challenges, progressions and impacts from the perspective of the world’s leading female innovators across industry, research and the financial sector. Discussion will focus on addressing the gender gap, diversity in STEM fields and bridging the gap between the latest technological research advancements and their real-world applications.

The 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference

24-26 May 2021

Attended by over 1,000 diversity, equality and inclusion representatives in 2020, this virtual event will discuss race, social justice, neurodiversity, women’s health, dis/ability, allyship, and other important issues pertaining to corporate inclusivity.


Community activism is overlooked, unpaid work: economist

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As Banks details in her research, the kinds of community work activists conduct doesn’t typically involve the buying or selling of goods and services. It’s largely charitable labour that’s hard to assign a monetary worth to, therefore precluding it from being considered an economic activity.

Social work, however, can actually have a far larger effect on the economy in many instances than simple economic transactions.

A lack of access to housing or quality education and the damaging effects of negative stereotyping and over-policing disenfranchises individuals and communities. These are areas in which social work has the potential to make a tangible difference, by attempting to improve the access that marginalised communities have to opportunities, and the protection they have against detrimental systems.

Without these activists it is likely the US economy would be experiencing an even larger loss, as social work often intervenes in high-risk situations, attempting to prevent individuals from falling into dangerous cycles of poverty.

Recognising the value and potential of these kinds of social contributions, beyond mere charitable standpoint, could be an opportunity for private organisations to increase the impact of their social activity and direct their resources to facilitating work bolstering social equality at large. This has the potential to not only tackle pressing social issues, but also to increase the visibility of those involved in unpaid social work, who are often also affected by stereotypes, discrimination and lack of economic opportunity.

If both public and private institutions embrace the economic value social activism can have, then it’s possible social work can be increasingly deployed where traditional solutions have failed.

Alphabet CEO apologises for culture after employee departure

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has promised to carry out a review of the firing of Dr Timnit Gebru, a co-leader of Google’s Ethical AI team and prominent Black female employee. Pichai apologised to staff who may “question their place” after Gebru’s departure, which raised issues over workforce diversity and the downside of AI, particularly its susceptibility to racial bias. Dr Gebru asked for an explanation why she had to withdraw a paper highlighting flaws in language technology, and offered to resign when none was given. Google accepted it immediately, while 2,000 employees signed a petition protesting her departure.

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In recent years, Google has created various opportunities to advance and protect the development of its AI technology. This has included acquiring small innovative firms (a process that typically involves refocusing development according to Google’s own targets) and developing its own educational qualification – Google Career Certificates. The firm has also been a front-runner in discussions about regulations for controversial technology such as facial recognition.

These moves not only bolster the internal capabilities of Google, but also influence the direction, methodology and regulation of AI development.

Against this backdrop, with Google able to dictate how its AI is being developed, what it’s being used for, and what regulations it abides by, losing employees who offer research and perspectives challenging its strategies potentially means losing the last set of checks and balances to its work and the last line of defence for consumers.

The Biden-Harris administration has previously talked about increasing diversity within the industry and the issue of inherent bias filtering into technological development. “Diversifying” algorithms, however, may not be as simple as changing the face of the workforce.

It’s been suggested, for example, that “fixing” biased algorithms could even violate US discrimination laws, albeit unintentionally. Such laws only govern for intent and not outcome, meaning intentionally altering technology could be seen as biased in its own right


Women face interruptions, lack of authority on Zoom calls: study

A Brigham Young University study has said it remains difficult for women to speak up at meetings or during Zoom calls because gender biases are still controlling social interaction and women are systematically considered less authoritative. The research came amid an increase in home working and Zoom meetings because of the pandemic. The report’s authors said even small changes at meetings or on calls can ensure women express their views equally. The McKinsey Global Institute has already said the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women and that improving gender equality can add $13tn to global growth by 2025.

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Many professional women experience a perceived lack of credibility and authority due to gender. Condescending behaviour isn’t a new phenomenon, and neither is the tendency for it to be targeted at women, with an intent to discredit them (whether conscious or not). Across a spectrum of different cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, abilities and industries, in most demographics, women experience exacerbated inequality simply by fact of their gender, a dynamic that often leads to the perpetuation of harmful stigma in the workplace.

The limitation of women can also stifle innovation and important insight on pressing issues such as climate change, social equality and even cybersecurity. The World Economic Forum recently called on governments to prioritise women in their plans for pandemic recovery, as out-of-work women without comprehensive social rights are limited from contributing to economic recovery efforts and important social work.

If audiences dismiss and seek to discredit women – even those that are subject experts – they aren’t absorbing the important information they are trying to disseminate. How long should we expect women to put up with this treatment which can lead to impacts on their own mental health? And what do we lose in terms of valuable minds and voices when we allow women to be treated this way?

The ultimate change towards improving this dynamic needs to be a behavioural one, defusing the language used with, and treatment of, women, to make space for more respect and productive conversation. On a larger scale, institutions – like workplaces – have the opportunity to increase opportunity for women through affirmative action and conscious engagement with the experiences women have at work.

Underpinning change needs to be the prioritisation of the enfranchisement of women, and giving them access to the same resources, treatment and professional respect as historically given to men in those same roles.




Nigerian edtech unveils virtual platform for parents, schools

Edtech start-up Gradely has raised $150,000 in pre-seed funding and launched a virtual learning platform for parents and schools in Nigeria. The platform allows real-time intervention in students’ learning. The Gradely For Schools platform includes live classes, assessment tools and personalised games and quizzes. The technology can also be used by working parents via a monthly subscription, enabling them to view their child’s progress. As technology take-up grows, Gradely aspires to expand the platform across Africa.

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Gradely’s new virtual-learning platform (Gradely for Schools) harnesses technology to offer personalised solutions for working parents, students and schools alike using data and analytics, adaptive content and testing. This allows parents and academic institutions to identify a student’s learning gaps.

Time-constrained parents can obtain reports on their children’s current learning progress, offering data-driven insight beyond the school curriculum. The platform also has a cross-regional scope, with assessment tools designed to align with both the Nigerian and British curriculums.

To date, Gradely’s resources have been used by over 5,000 parents and 200 schools in Nigeria, as part of its beta testing phase.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the digital divide between children in rural and less affluent communities in Nigeria, with many being left behind as they are unable to transition to a new method of learning. Around 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children aged 5-14 are out of school and Nigeria contributes approximately 20% of the total global out-of-school population.

With the gradual growth of internet and device accessibility, Gradely may be able to address the lack of access to quality education – particularly in developing economies. Alongside Gradely’s initiative, projects such as Digiterate and Teach for Nigeriaand rising public-private partnerships in this area may address the issue and its wider socio-economic effects.


In-home devices trialled to monitor vulnerable people in London

Richmond and Sutton councils will install sensors in the homes of vulnerable people who live in public housing, such as the elderly, through a pilot designed to monitor their well-being. The project, to be conducted in collaboration with the IoT Solutions Group, will explore the role of connected devices in providing remote assistance and care for those in need. The devices will detect reductions in activity from the household, but they will not record visual or audio recordings, or collect personal data, according to Sutton Housing Partnership Managing Director Steve Tucker.

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The use of smart solutions has increased significantly, and in some cases has been embraced, by older citizens during the pandemic to enable remote methods to monitor health.

The pilot scheme will trial the installation of 200 sensors at properties from the Richmond Housing Partnership and Sutton Housing partnership and provide automated, real-time insights into an individual’s home activity. The sensors enable remote monitoring by detecting irregular activity within the home and notifying carers or independent living officers through instant updates, allowing for immediate property visits instead of waiting for scheduled appointments or for direct contact from residents.

Other health-monitoring devices targeted to safeguard elderly residents include passive infra-red detectors, property exit sensors and wearable devices. AI-based personalised fall-detection technology from FallCall Detect is able to distinguish between low-impact senior accidents that might occur from a sitting position, and high-impact falls through a mobile app.

Smart wearable devices could also aid the prediction and tracking of virus symptoms such those associated with as Covid-19 – and potentially reduce or reverse the onset of elderly-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Aside from health-related services, devices can also be utilised to address loneliness and isolation among the elderly population, worsened by the pandemic.

Despite such benefits, the rise of elderly-focused home-monitoring devices raises some concerns around the privacy of individuals, mirroring those around user security and smart apps, such as Singapore’s LumiHealth programme.


Adaptive clothing brands struggle against Facebook ad rules

Facebook’s ad rules have hit adaptive clothing brands because the social media site’s algorithms misunderstand adaptive products and block them, after claiming they promote health care and medical devices. Roughly half a dozen adaptive clothing companies have had ads blocked and have been forced to make an item-by-item appeal, despite companies increasingly publicising diversity and inclusion policies. Atlas of AI author Kate Crawford called the problem the “untold story” of machine learning’s classification systems, which may not include dis/abled people. Facebook said it wanted to help adaptive fashion brands find customers.


Lack of mental health support may drive staff to quit: report

UK staff would consider leaving their job if they did not feel emotionally supported by their employer, a Benenden Health report suggests. The non-profit health care provider surveyed over 2,000 employees and business owners with a focus on Covid-19’s impact on staff mental health. It found that 55% of workers would leave their employer if their mental well-being was not being supported, rising to 78% among 18 to 24-year-olds. It also revealed that 42% of companies had lost staff for this reason, with 25% saying they had lost a valuable member of their team.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has put mental health firmly under the spotlight in every aspect of life. More businesses, both big and small, are becoming more aware of how issues such as anxiety and depression can affect productivity and wondering how they can help. Staff retention is key to the sustainability of an organisation, so ensuring workers feel supported should be high on businesses’ list of priorities. It’s also a duty of care.

Research has shown that dealing with mental health in the workplace, including for people working from home, requires a holistic and open approach – company-wide inclusivity is essential.

Management training in how to identify and best approach staff who may be struggling without causing embarrassment or concern is important. So is creating a more even playing field by removing hierarchical structures that prevent workers at all levels from feeling able to reach out if they have a problem. Tougher and more transparent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination measures can also help increase confidence among those suffering from mental health problems.





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