Using automation to tackle gender bias in the workplace has proven to be a difficult task for many companies. In some cases, trying to solve the issue has amplified the problem.
For example, Amazon had to get rid of one of its AI human resources tool that discriminated against women applicants. And last year, Google Translate had to update its algorithm to stop the tool from only returning masculine translations to gender-neutral terms.
Now, Slack’s new plug-in, #BiasCorrect, is changing the way people speak about women at work. #BiasCorrect was launched by Catalyst, a non-profit dedicated to making workplaces more women-friendly.
The plug-in used automation to suggest alternative terms and phrases when Slack users describe women coworkers using words with negative connotations. For example, if someone types “she’s so aggressive,” #BiasCorrect will offer terms like “passionate” or “focused” to point out the user’s unconscious bias.
Since the launch of the plug-in, women across Twitter have used the hashtag to highlight some of the names they’ve been called at work. Even Hillary Clinton decided to participate.
Women aren't "bossy." We're the boss. Words matter, and being aware of gender bias in the way we relate to each other can make workplaces—and the world—better for everyone. Visit https://t.co/s2suGTweCQ for tools to #BiasCorrect. #IWD19 pic.twitter.com/Ib9NKpY9pV
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 8, 2019
According to a study by Deloitte Insights, simple changes in workplace culture can have dramatic results for companies’ women retention rates and hiring practices.
Although the study does not mention the use of language, it does suggest companies start small and focus on making incremental changes to departments that “iteratively redesign facets of the work environment that may be creating barriers for women.”
It is unclear if the plug-in will change people’s minds about the descriptors they use for women, but it will definitely make people stop and think.