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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AI language models are being used to identify instances of racial and gender bias in employee performance reviews.

Why it matters: The tech industry — and all industries — have an ongoing problem with bias in the workplace. AI systems that parse text can help identify bias in at least one area: who companies decide to hire and promote.

How it works: Text IQ, an AI startup that focuses on uncovering latent risk in unstructured data like reports and financial data, recently launched its Unconscious Bias Detector.

  • Its AI system can scan employee performance reviews and identify, for example, whether male managers in a company are more likely to give higher scores to male workers.
  • It can also parse the text in written reviews and identify "work-focused language versus personality-focused language," says Apoorv Agarwal, Text IQ's CEO.
  • If a manager is giving one group of workers reviews that focus much more on personality versus work performance, that suggests some element of bias may be at work.

What they're saying: "Our goal with this is if we can make something unconscious conscious, that's already doing a lot," says Omar Haroun, Text IQ's COO.

The catch: While natural language processing models like this one have made major leaps in recent years — in part by being able to "combine the social aspect of text along with the linguistic," notes Agarwal — they're far from perfect and shouldn't be relied upon alone.

Context: As firms across industries begin to take diversity and inclusion more seriously, they need to rely on robust data about what's actually happening inside their companies, says Tauhidah Shakir, vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer at Paylocity.

  • "We're looking at all of the available information to say, 'Where do we need to focus?'" she adds. "And we wouldn't be able to do that without that data."

Go deeper: The perils of AI emotion recognition

Go deeper

Apr 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

A cultural crisis in America's workplaces

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Across jobs and industries, Black employees have more negative views of the state of diversity and inclusion than their colleagues, according to a new report out today by career site Glassdoor.

Why it matters: Negative perceptions of workplace culture have a business cost. They can affect performance and productivity and ultimately lead to turnover.

2 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.