AI’s Helping Hand For Female UK Job Seekers

UK leaders in AI say the algorithms that hurt women candidates have improved.  

Women continue to take a back seat when it comes to hiring for senior ranks. They still remain the minority on the boards of Britain’s biggest public companies, at less than 40%. But it turns out women may get a helping hand from an unlikely source: artificial intelligence.

After long having a gender bias, the latest AI algorithms can now help right that problem, new research from Europe shows. A paper by three university researchers said that the proportion of top applicants who are female has more than doubled “in some cases.”

This matters a lot for Britain, as London is viewed as a global leader in artificial intelligence. London is the city that uses the most AI, ahead of New York and Singapore, according to research published earlier this year on investment in the sector. “Britain is putting a banner on AI, as it’s been a UK-led initiative,” says Stuart Richards, Korn Ferry’s sector lead for consumer products in EMEA.

The new AI developments are a change from the past, when sometimes algorithms would filter out a disproportionate number of qualified female candidates. But experts say now that wasn’t wholly the fault of the programs, but rather the way they were trained. AI learns from data and sometimes the data isn’t good, especially if it mimics data from human behaviors which are biased. And until recently that was one way things got done. “I saw tools in the market where the AI would stack rank candidates after learning from the way recruiters ranked the candidates,” says Ben Angold, senior client partner for client solutions in EMEA for Korn Ferry’s RPO practice.

All technology has flaws, of course, but that doesn’t mean it can’t improve. The same is true for AI. It can be a useful or even powerful tool for recruiters dealing with vast quantities of applications in a short time. “The ability of AI to mine massive lakes of data is game changing,” Angold says. Put another way, instead of flicking through a thousand applications manually and whittling them down to 100, AI can do the job in a trice.

Written qualifications and experience are just part of the process. In the end, staff are responsible for the decisions that get made. “You still need the human touch,” says Grant Duncan, Korn Ferry’s sector lead for media entertainment and digital in EMEA. “You still need to ask yourself if they fit with the culture — these are soft factors,” he says.

Still, there are some gaps in AI’s usefulness. It is less useful for hiring the very top executives. That’s because the entire candidate pool for a C-suite position could be as few as 15 people when you consider the experience and qualifications required for such roles. “You have to draw a distinction with the top of the house,” Duncan says. Track record, peer assessments, references, and other things all go into the decision-making for such roles. “If the volume is a handful of people, you don’t need AI,” he says.


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