Driving innovation: The power of inclusion in the future of AI

Driving innovation The power of inclusion in the future of AI

A growing body of research points to the strategic and financial importance of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion across the organization. During a recent ‘Diverse perspectives in AI’ panel discussion, Joe Edwards (Director of Product Marketing at UiPath) asked a related question to senior AI and automation leaders: is representation as critical for progress within AI ecosystems as it is for an organization?

With tenures at some of the most respected tech companies in the world, panelists Jarel Hawkins (IA & AI Executive / CxO Advisor), Floyd Newsum III (Managing Director at RPA (HK), Ltd.), and Keena Byrd, PhD (UX Research Leader at UiPath) shared their insights on why inclusive AI at work will lead to better innovation and performance. They also shared what executives need to consider when designing, testing, and optimizing the generative AI that is revolutionizing the way we do business.

Diverse perspectives on the future of AI panel speakers

Representation is key to a robust AI ecosystem

One of the most intriguing and highest-potential attributes of GenAI is that it is powered by natural language, making it accessible to more people, communities, and organizations.

However, to fully tap into that potential, AI developers, testers, and users must be as diverse as the communities the technology aims to advance. For one, it is paramount to hedge against human biases getting baked into the AI that learns from us. For another, variation in perspectives leads to stronger products and stronger organizations.

"Inclusion," Newsum shared, “is a lightning rod for innovation.”

"Diversity is about everyone, and that’s not an opinion, it's math,” concurred Hawkins. "Don't take my word for it. Research the diversity prediction theory...low-ability solvers with greater variability can outperform high-ability problem solvers with less variance.” 

And the more innovative and higher-performing your people and systems are, the better it is for your bottom line.

“There needs to be more honesty in the conversations around inclusive workplaces,” said Newsum. “When we talk about diversity and inclusion, often times it’s framed as a charity act...but diversity is smart business strategy.”

Smart, indeed. A 2023 McKinsey study found that top-quartile organizations with diversity in executive teams are, on average, 39 percent more likely to financially outperform their peers. Similarly, a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group showed that companies with more diverse managerial teams reported 19 percent more innovation revenue than those with below-average diversity.

“We can debate back and forth about the social benefits,” said Newsum, “but it’s also about the money.” 

Broadening the definition of ‘diversity’

We tend to think of diversity mostly in the context of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, and religion. But the panelists suggested that definition could be too narrow. It is also critical to give opportunities to people whose resumes may not fully align with job descriptions. In other words, seek out diversity in experience, too.

Hawkins, who crafted his career to develop deep but broad experience across the engineer-to-executive spectrum, spoke to his personal experience in this regard.

"Specifically in tech, there are these hidden and implicit personas for roles,” he shared. “I’ve been told, ‘Oh, you’re too technical for a product tech role.’ That doesn’t compute. What do you mean?”

As business leaders consider how diversity affects their AI-powered enterprises, Hawkins encouraged leaders to look beyond typical role personas. Fresh perspectives from people with varied, cross-functional experience can spell the difference between stagnation and innovation.

GenAI can be an empowering equalizer

No longer do you need to be a specialist or programmer to unlock AI's transformative potential—GenAI is accessible to all. And, if it is built by and learns from a diverse pool of people, it will become an empowering equalizer.

UiPath Autopilot™, a set of new AI-powered experiences across the UiPath Business Automation Platform, was built with this democratization in mind. From interns to CEOs, it makes every user more productive.

“Autopilot will allow people who are non-specialists to use systems to augment their skills,” said Byrd. “Take someone who hasn't had access to a certain level of training and education...if they're able use something like Autopilot to uplevel their skills, that will bridge a gap.”

The human and business implications of these 'bridged gaps' are significant. New communities will become empowered to innovate, and they will bring their diverse experiences and expertise into GenAI’s learning models.

“When I think about Autopilot and other GenAI tools like this, they are an enabler for all communities, but particularly underrepresented communities,” said Newsum. “Individuals who might not have [been] involved in this industry can begin to see new opportunities.”

Prioritize inclusive AI now for long-term benefits

Ultimately, time is of the essence. One thing the panelists made overwhelmingly clear: organizations ignore diversity as a strategic business priority at their own risk. And, considering how rapidly AI technology is advancing, it’s critical to implement best practices now.

“People need to invest [in inclusivity] early,” Byrd advised. “As your team grows bigger and bigger, it’s harder to change the culture and the make-up of it.”

Hawkins agreed, and he encouraged leaders to understand the “why,” connect it to the bottom line, and then allocate resources appropriately. Organizations powered by inclusive teams and inclusive AI will win the market and speed up innovation.

"Diversity can benefit businesses operationally and financially,” Newsum concluded. “It’s the right thing to do, and it makes money. It’s rare that you find things that align so well.”

Interested in learning more about the importance of embedding diversity and inclusion in their organizations and AI ecosystems? The full recording of "Diverse perspectives on the future of AI" is available online.

Watch 'Diverse Perspectives on the Future of AI' on demand.

Raheem Hasan headshot
Raheem Hasan

Director, Global Partner Marketing, UiPath

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