In this interview with Vivian Acquah, the founder of the Amplify DEI movement, we discuss what happens when AI is culturally insensitive, culture fit vs diversity and all things REAL DEI. Vivian Acquah is a driven woman who likes to talk about the holistic way of sustainable employability, called workplace wellness. For her, this is the way to work on a healthy culture at work. Vivian advises managers and companies on how to keep their team members healthy, happy, and safe. Behind the scenes, she is working on micro-aggressions training, managing her podcast, organizing her annual Amplify DEI Summit happening September 27-29. Read to the end **Limited Complimentary Tickets to AmplifyDEI Summit**
While participating in a recent conference, she had an unfortunate incident with AI. As someone who created the AmplifyDEI movement in response to being discriminated against as a mother, she used this incident as a personal learning opportunity and global teaching moment. She not only wrote this LinkedIn article after informing the organizers but also created a corresponding poll. Watch our latest episode here for the rest of the story and continue reading.
It was shocking how a simple AI misinterpretation caused so much hurt to her as an individual, to her family on several levels and caused unnecessary confusion. The short story is that every identifiable attribute of who she is was erased by the lack of the information fed into AI. Fortunately, in this case, Vivian is an advocate for educating organizations about their inequity blindspots. However, imagine how this lands for someone who is a simple job seeker and unbeknownst to them, they have been erased.
Jodi-Ann Burey touches on this in her TED Talk, "Why You Should Not Bring Your Authentic Self to Work". Recruiters and managers say you belong here, when in reality, we, Black people specifically, are forced to compartmentalize, contort and conceal our true self to be included.
Specific to this event, it was overall a missed opportunity to focus on the conference's theme product (avatar) that is inclusive. In countries with diverse populations, you would expect that it would be the norm to consider a wide variety of complexions, hair types and styles, head wraps and coverings. Yet, in the 21st-century, the homogenization of women is alarming, and this is the most basic of diversity, equity and inclusion: appearance.
Let's talk REAL DEI. Where does this massive lack of awareness come from? Can we even give it the grace of calling it THAT? Before considering tools that are supposed to be used by people worldwide, BETA test them first. Educate yourself and watch documentaries like Encoded Bias. During our conversation, Peter said, "the word intelligence, in artificial intelligence, is on shaky ground because humans code it!" Quite simply, do your due diligence. Very rarely will something off the shelf actually work or make the cut. Blindly choosing it creates a lack of trust. The good news is that you can come clean and begin again. It can be that simple to create psychological safety... STOP forcing everyone to be the same! On a departmental level, recognize that an in-house DEI advocate is primarily an in-house therapist if we are honest. When Peter asked Vivian about the role of in-house DEI person, she encouraged, "we need to treat the DEI roles realistically." Genuinely value the weight of that position.
Culture Fit Or Diversity? Companies offering team activities will make it difficult to fill positions with any demographic. For example, if you list all beer-related and sports-related extracurricular activities, exclude people who may have strict religious practices, are disabled or simply do not like sports. Instead, it is better to understand the people with the skill sets your company requires and offer a culture accordingly. Vivian recommends, "If you have a turnover of women of colour, hire a coach to help you overcome that...challenge yourself to be aware. A friend of mine has created software to help others experience being a Black woman and being approached inappropriately." She will be interviewing the software creator at the AmplifyDEI Summit; register here to learn more.
Most importantly, offer transparency in the interview process when you operate like the Hunger Games, 1000 applicants for one position and keep the position open for 100 days. Remember, the company is interviewing for the applicant as much as the applicant is interviewing for the position. Be ready to showcase your genuine interest in expanding towards diversity. Be aware of your relationship check and showcasing your love for having your employee feel they belong.
"There is nothing like a lived experience," Peter encouraged. We are a team of a refugee, a white male and me, a black muslim hijab. Mira had to get comfortable with challenging authority as a refugee. "If I didn't see others as better than me but the same as me, I could communicate. However, when I saw them as better than me, I showed up that way". Peter agreed that "when I was comfortable being me, it made others comfortable with me." It can be argued that visually both Peter and Mira are white, and that is the REAL reason for the
comfort. However, I had experienced the same when I entered the interviewing process as a black muslim woman.
So how can you circumvent the encoded bias in recruitment? It is all about self-awareness, self-leadership. Here are some tips Vivian recommends:
"Know yourself and what qualities you bring to the table. You need to know how others perceive you, so do a 360 assessment to assess your superpowers." That means asking your colleagues, relatives and managers.
Understand if your values align with the values of the company you seek to work for.
Make action forward to challenge the company with personal efforts.
Focus on your genuine interest vs being interesting.
Use tools that help you to do better and be better.
Get a coach to help you show up powerfully as an organization or job seeker.
If you are seeking help or guidance with any of the topics in the article, reach out to us. And if you would like an all-access ticket to AmplyDEI. **SPECIAL OFFER** contact us here, letting us know what challenges you experience in your company or role related to DEI or what you need help with.
Written by Cordelia Gaffar