180° Shift: The Science of Diversity


Laura Mather
Founder and CEO, Unitive

Mather: So I’m going to talk about two different 180s, and if you think about that, that’s actually a 360, but it doesn’t go that way. The first 180 is my own personal 180, and then the second one is one I think is about to occur in the human resources and psychology fields.

So my personal 180: I am a cybersecurity expert. I have a Ph.D. in computer science, I started my career at the National Security Agency; I was early risk management at eBay. In 2008 I started my own cybersecurity company—and actually it was funded by one of our sponsors, Citi Ventures—and grew that to 110 people protecting 1.5 billion online accounts. And then in 2012 sold that to the other main sponsor, EMC, and really took that moment in my career to reflect on my journey. And what I realized was I had a huge amount of dismay about the lack of diversity in computer science, in academia, in federal government, in technology, and security and startups—it goes on and on. And I decided to use my technological skills to try and address the diversity problem, so I went from cybersecurity to human resources as, sort of, my career path.

So this brings me to the second 180, which I think is about to occur. The great news about diversity is that there is a ton of research out there on how to remove unconscious bias from hiring, development, promotions. Now, what’s a little disconcerting is that human resource professionals and psychologists implement this research mostly through training. I bet a bunch of you have even been in unconscious bias training, and that’s great, I love that people are training for it. But I believe we can use technology to mitigate the unconscious bias at the moment it is occurring and actually have processes in the hiring, promotion, and development cycle where when someone takes an action that may indicate there’s bias we can actually change that action, or educate the person about that action, or just record that there may have been bias.

So unfortunately, in my 180 seconds I don’t have time to go into how we’re doing that, but I think this is going to turn human resources, and even psychology, on its head by using software to implement these research findings. And what better way to use technology to change the world than to improve diversity?

Thank you.

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