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Ethical AI and the future of diversity in public policy

The lack of diversity in public policy is a well-researched, divisive issue that many are vocal about. People of color regularly face glaring examples of implicit bias in Capitol Hill recruitment and retention processes and beyond. In 2021 alone, we saw the Congressional Black Associates’ open letter in the Washington Post exposing bias right on our home turf. 

However, the nation’s most significant challenges can produce life-changing innovation and curiosity.  Amidst the great resignation and corporate racial reckoning, we began to explore how we can build a bridge between talented professionals and organizations that honor and respect Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) principles in the workplace?  

In solving for implicit bias in the workplace, our exploration landed at responsible use of technology driven by those committed to principles of equity. For too long, artificial intelligence (AI) has been used irresponsibly and unethically, leading to increased bias in results. When used ethically, AI has the potential to improve efficiency and accuracy, solving complex and repetitive problems in hiring by focusing solely on the skillset of a professional.  

As policymakers, we know that a government that reflects the diverse fabric of its people is better run, more effective, and helps achieve greater equity. As a result, it creates and implements more inclusive policies and elevates a multi-faceted set of role models. Diverse perspectives often prompt more creative insights, proffer alternative and comprehensive solutions and make decisions to better serve our communities. That is why diversity of identity and diversity of thought is crucial to public policy and advancing progress. 

The key to successfully deploying ethical AI for DEI efforts is to deploy task forces, creators and champions who level the playing field. The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion works to envision a more representative House of Representatives. The Algorithmic Accountability Act is legislation that will bring new transparency and oversight of software, algorithms and other automated systems that are used to make critical decisions about nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives.   

The Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBCI)’s solution to the pervasive issue of diversity in public policy through its Career Placement Initiative (CPI), exemplifies the importance of community building and ethical AI in breaking barriers. The CPI deploys an enterprise-ready AI solution that directly connects employers to a carefully curated body of CBCI-vetted jobseekers for companies that have claimed for years that they can’t find Black talent. Additionally, the CPI’s expansive inclusion of customizable algorithms such as years of experience, certifications, skillsets, and the exclusion of proxy variables such as race, gender, and zip code that may introduce bias and have historically been used to marginalize communities underscores the CPI’s progressive nature and innovative approach. This action-oriented initiative is the first-of-its-kind to ensure the public policy workforce reflects the diverse fabric of our nation.  

Doubling down on its commitment to diversity, the CBCI worked with two Black-woman owned businesses to make the Career Placement Initiative happen: matchplicity® Technology, the software at the heart of the CPI, and Spero Studio, a strategic communications firm working to create both a pipeline of companies and pipeline of talent that want to disrupt public policy hiring practices. 

The mission doesn’t just stop at recruitment but also lends itself to retention. Jobs for the Futures’ Thrive@Work platform is an Employee experience technology that empowers young workers from low-income backgrounds for success. Hiring and promoting are hampered when workers don’t have the information they need to chart paths for growth within their current organizations.  

As we acclimate ourselves to a post-COVID-pandemic workforce, we must consider what this could look like and how to improve our hiring practices that lead to more inclusive representation in public policy, which will, in turn, reverberate throughout all sectors.  

According to a McKinsey poll, COVID-19 has exacerbated the already uneven work equity gaps, and women are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men. Women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 job losses of overall job losses. Additionally, a Strada poll concluded that 44 percent of Black individuals experienced job and wage loss throughout the pandemic. The work of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute takes that into account and provides a plausible path forward that is representative and reflective of the diversity of our needs as a nation by starting in the public policy sector.  

Public policy impacts and influences every other industry; it is essentially the garden of Eden. Every aspect of your life is a function of government. From how much it costs to buy a house, whether you will have to pay your student loans back, and even your ability to make decisions about your own bodily autonomy. All are impacted by public policy. However, the collective sum of our differences, life experiences, qualifications, and many other designations help to ensure the decisions made for us are made by people who understand that our needs are not monolithic.  

Joyce Beatty represents Ohio’s 3rd District and is chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Yvette D. Clarke represents New York’s 9th District. 

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