We Got Funded: HR Tech Platform Diversely Raises US$200,000 In Pre-Seed Investment As It Looks To Negate Bias In The Hiring Process
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“The issue with bias is that –if left unresolved– it can and does affect all types of diversity in the workplace,” says Helen McGuire, founder of Dubai-based women’s careers platform Hopscotch.work, who is now also the CEO of Diversely. “Though none of us like to think that we are inherently biased against a certain type of person, the fact is that unconscious bias creeps into everyone’s day-to-day lives at some level and it is simply human to gravitate more closely towards those with whom you feel have a connection or something in common.”
This statement, and the gravitas of the sentiment behind it, is what largely drives the core mission of Diversely, an end-to-end, human resources (HR) tech platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to remove bias from the hiring process– more specifically, biased language. The collaborative effort of two women (McGuire, and Hayley Bakker, founder of Singapore-based tech off-shoring company, ColibriGrowth), Diversely has recently raised US$200,000 from eight international angel investors in order to work on its solution to improve workplace diversity through hiring tools, analytics and just-in-time training.
Currently at a beta stage, the tech company will initially launch its services in Singapore and Dubai in the second quarter of 2021.
Both founders acknowledge that there remain an umpteen number of demographic groups that are ignored, negatively stereotyped, and shown prejudice against in the global workforce. A research carried out by Diversely showed that although 85% of its clients want to improve workplace diversity, while only one in five firms have been able to notice any kind of impactful results.
“Our platform acts as a next generation applicant tracking system (ATS) and means that businesses can reach under-represented talent to find the best –not just the most obvious- candidates for their teams quickly, easily, and cost-effectively by improving their reach,” explains McGuire. “The tech also means that all candidates are treated and communicated with consistently, fairly and equally– each given the chance to reach the goal of being hired based on their skills and not their connections or other attributes, which will reduce discrimination.”
When asked what exactly constitutes “biased job description language”, McGuire says that there are many layers to it. “There are so many examples here –not just of language, but the way a job description is structured– that can make a job post seem far less inclusive and appealing than it should,” she further explains. "The most obvious examples are the use of language that tends to appeal to a male over a female audience. I have personally rewritten hundreds of job descriptions for clients and our experiments have shown that this can increase your reach to under-represented talent groups by up to 70% and double relevant applicant responses."
McGuire emphasizes that the Middle East isn’t free from such prejudices either. “Dubai –and the Middle East in general– suffers from this in the same way as other locations, but geography absolutely plays a part in the type of biases that may exist,” she says. "Racial discrimination against people of color will look different depending on your region, country or even city of work and can even crop up very explicitly in job descriptions, for example, in Dubai.”
In addition to racial discrimination, factors such as ageism, lack of opportunities for people with disabilities (PWD), and gender biases are also very much prevalent in the region, explains McGuire. Identifying the presence of many such biases is only the first step in Diversely’s attempt to help increase greater workplace inclusivity. The next and most important step for McGuire and Bakker is to negate the use of such biased language using AI. “Our AI-driven tools help those who are hiring to avoid the human elements of these biases through subscribing to three key modules– sourcing, selection, and hiring,” McGuire says. "Sourcing will be launched first and contains specific solutions to increase the use of inclusive language through our job description bias-checker, increase reach to more diverse talent groups through integrations with relevant job boards and automate the anonymization of profiles– all through a few clicks of a button.”
An exclusive partnership with the Centre for Applied Linguistics at The University of Nottingham will enable the use of scientific research for Diversely’s tools to recognize, reduce and replace biased-language in job descriptions. With the firm aiming for an early 2021 launch, McGuire remains hopeful about Diversely becoming a globally used HR-tech platform over the next few years. “We’re currently working with beta tester clients with regional and global foot prints, such as Property Guru, Ogilvy, and Food Panda, as we create our tools and roll them out to our official launch in May 2021,” she says. “We are building a platform that can replace and improve many out-dated HR tech tools. Plus, we are working with some of the smartest minds in the business and aim to be global by 2023.”