The technology sector has come under the spotlight for its lack of diversity after a series of high-profile cases of sexual harassment in Silicon Valley companies, including Uber. A series of scandals in the US about predictive policing and facial recognition software that cannot recognise black people have also raised concerns about ethnic discrimination.
There is limited data about minority ethnic workers in UK and European technology companies. But as more businesses offer machine learning algorithms for analysing job posting, lawyers and activists have raised concerns that hiring biases will be preserved and reduced rather than challenged.
Michael Sippitt, a director of Forbury People, a UK based HR consultancy says, “tech races ahead of people working out how to use it”. He predicts there will be lawsuits citing discrimination in the future because of bias in automated hiring. This is because AI algorithms learn from historic data sets, he adds, so they are more likely to hire in the image of previous staff instead of helping to tackle unfair under-representation. For example, a survey of the existing educational background, age or experience of staff in a particular industry could encourage machine learning technology to exclude candidates that did not fit a particular profile.