Jenifer Clausell: Using AI technology to diversify the workplace

Throughout her career, Jenifer Clausell has leveraged technology to solve various big-scale issues. Her company Develop Diverse utilises AI to create more inclusive communications, with the ultimate goal of building a more diverse work force.

Jenifer Clausell is passionate about what she does and how she does it. Her career has been defined by using technology to solve significant problems; for ten years, she used technology to address biomedical challenges. Over the past three years, Clausell has built Develop Diverse, a company focused on reducing the inequalities in the hiring process. Clausell told ARYZE about her experiences with tech, the social problems within job recruitment, and how AI technology can be utilized to solve them. 

At Develop Diverse our vision is to normalize diversity by enabling recruiters and communication managers to attract and retain qualified and diverse employees through inclusive communication across their organization. For that purpose, we have built software, the DD-scan, that works like a spell-checker for inclusive language. It detects phrases that can negatively affect people due to the social group they belong to (e.g. gender, ethnicity and age) and proposes inclusive alternatives.

The language used in a job description signals to potential candidates who the company sees as an ideal employee. As Clausel says, this type of stereotyping shapes both who applies and who is hired:

“When we write job ads, we already unconsciously have a default candidate in mind that is largely determined by what we perceive to be the average employee demographics in that field. This means that for male-dominated fields, such as IT or finance, the default candidate in our mind is a man, while for female-dominated fields, such as childcare, it is a woman. This significantly influences the way we describe our ideal candidate for a position by using stereotypical language without noticing, and whoever reads the job ad will pick up on this subconsciously as well.”

Stereotypical language within job descriptions creates another barrier to creating a diverse and inclusive workforce. AI software provides the best solution to this problem because it is developed by experts, uses scientific measurements, saves time and increases accuracy. As Clausell attests, “noticing the non-inclusive terms is only the first step towards writing inclusive texts. Finding the inclusive alternatives is a much more difficult task.” AI software is quicker and more accurate than a recruiter at identifying and replacing non-inclusive terms within job descriptions and company websites.

Clausell identifies the main mistakes people make when hiring:

“Everyone has biases, but not everyone remembers to challenge them. These biases are often at work when we are looking for a new employee. They can be societal biases, maybe thinking that a certain gender would be better suited for the position we are trying to fill, or they can be personal, for instance, being partial to a candidate not because of their skills and proficiencies, but because they enjoy the same things as you. Focusing on a candidate’s choices and actions instead of emphasising their inherent qualities and natural talents helps in making unbiased decisions.”

Maintaining and projecting an ‘ideal cultural image’ of people who succeed in certain fields creates barriers for more diverse candidates to be hired or to obtain support for their ventures.

“Today, we define successful entrepreneurs similar to that of lone warriors, which is based on a set of stereotypically masculine traits like aggressiveness, independence, competitiveness and a willingness to take risks. And we define tech geeks as friendless, isolated, nerdy and having no interpersonal skills.  According to conventional assumptions, most women do not embody these traits and thus it creates barriers for women.”

Develop Diverse allows companies to identify the stereotypes within their language and finds more inclusive solutions. However, Clausell believes educational institutions and companies also have an important role in building a more diverse work force. Educational institutions must have the resources to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM. Companies must examine the image they are projecting and make their work culture truly inclusive. Instead of focusing on cultural ideals of the stereotypical candidate, Clausel says, “it’s time to forget culture fit, and focus on candidates who share the vision and values instead!”

You can connect with Jenifer Clausell on LinkedIn and find more interesting interviews and articles on our blog.

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