Are Our Current Workplaces Working?

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“The right to work is a foundation for the realization of other human rights and for life with dignity” - International Network for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights

Work is an international right and there should not be discrimination of any sort. Three common types of discrimination are discrimination based on age, gender, or because someone is differently abled. But no matter the type, the bottom line is that everyone has not only the right to work but also the right to be treated with respect at their place of work. However, as the #MeToo movement has shown us, this is not always the case. You will sometimes find that it is hard to get a job if you are under the age of twenty-five (looking young and assumed lack of experience) or if you are over fifty (considered old and assumed that older talent doesn’t add as much value to the company). We need to stop with the Generation Z, Millennial, and Baby Boomer distinctions and value all people in the workforce; this means respecting employees for their contributions and not because they fit a certain mold. The question we must confront is how do we build companies that allow everyone to contribute?


The right to work is an international right, and this is not just a saying. There are a body of laws governing the right to work. Three articles from the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights are central foundations employee rights:


Article 6(1): “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain [her or his] living by work which [she or he] freely chooses or accepts, and will take appropriate steps to safeguard this right.”


Article 7: “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work.”


Article 8: “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure: (a) The right to everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of [her or his] choice…(d) the right to strike…”


Besides these articles that lay out the rights, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has agreed on three “As,” availability, accessibility, and acceptability and quality, to be interrelated features of creating the best workplace possible for all.


It would seem that since there is a governing body over worker’s rights that there would be limited issues. However, there are multiple areas that need improvement. One such area is the ability of companies and workplaces to account for the differently abled. In some countries the issues stem from lack of educational policies for those that struggle in school because of their disability. For example, in India, oftentimes an improper learning environment for those with disabilities leads to students dropping out of school. This in turn limits their choices in the workplace. Countries such as Israel, are currently attempting to create more inclusive communities for the differently abled. Daniel is a community being built with the intention of creating an environment conducive to the success of those with disabilities. Meanwhile, The Finance Ministry, Israel Innovation Authority and Foundation for the Development of Services for the Disabled at the National Insurance Institute recently gave companies money to develop products to help those with disabilities. One company created “Open Sesame,” a smartphone app that allows those who cannot use their hands to use a smartphone. A technology such as “Open Sesame,” is pertinent to the success of those with disabilities in the workplace, as oftentimes not being able to type or use one’s hands will prevent them from obtaining a job, as these are skills that many contemporary jobs require. It is encouraging to see Israel making these strides for more inclusivity for the differently abled, and other countries and companies should follow in its footsteps.


In addition to the differently abled, those of certain ages also experience discrimination in the workplace. “Two out of three workers between ages 45 and 74 say they have seen or experienced age discrimination at work.” And the United States Supreme Court may have upped this statistic when it ruled in 2009 that one must meet a “higher burden of proof” for age discrimination as opposed to other types of discrimination. And Americans are not happy about it, as eight in ten Americans desire for Congress to create stronger laws to prevent age discrimination. The Centre for Ageing Better conducted a survey and found that half of those surveyed over 50 years old believe that they would be at a disadvantage if they applied for a new job. Part of the problem surrounding age discrimination stems from recruitment policies, which often ask for birth year or graduation date, thereby aging a person. Companies can create policies to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace, and there are venues for those who have experienced age discrimination to take action. Some companies which are making the strides to do things differently include Barclays, Boots, Aviva, and the Co-Op, which are all trying to increase their number of employees over fifty years old by 2022. Companies also need to find ways to integrate Baby Boomers into workplace along with Gen Z. It is a simple fact that people are retiring later. Older generations have skills that millennials do not like understanding human side of business, and vice versa. On the employee end of the spectrum, if employees have experienced age discrimination at work they can sue their company or file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, companies should implement policies so that it does not come to this step.


The third major type of discrimination in the workplace is one that has been highly publicized as of late: gender discrimination. The following statistics from the Pew Research Foundation highlight the dire nature of this issue: 42% of American working women say that they have experienced gender discrimination at job; 25% report earning less than men; and 23% say they have been treated as less competent because of their gender. These numbers in and of themselves point to a need to address gender discrimination. Gender discrimination also subsists as an issue for transgender and gender non-conforming people. In a survey of transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers, of the 77% of those that reported being employed, 36% said that they saw offensive graffiti and pictures, and 33% experienced unwanted sexual comments at work. The most common experience was misgendered, where an individual was referred to by their birth name or the wrong pronouns. It should be noted that New York City Law requires employers use an individual’s “preferred name, pronouns, and title but also protects transgender and TGNC people against discrimination.”


Large companies have recently gotten in trouble for discrimination against both women and men. In terms of discrimination against women, Microsoft has been sued for gender discrimination as well as sexual harassment, as has Computer Sciences Corporation. Walmart and Quest Diagnostics and AmeriPath were also brought to court for gender discrimination. In terms of discrimination against men, Entura Capital, a beauty company, was sued for refusing to hire men as Sales Reps, and Lawry’s, a corporation operating restaurants, was sued for only hiring female servers. In addition, Yahoo was sued and the Jimmy Fallon Show, for preference toward women. As these issues come to light so has a mission to stop it. The #MeToo movement has highlighted major public figures for sexual harassment, including Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and James Levine. While stemming from a terrible source, hopefully the #MeToo movement is helping to bring some of these gender discrimination issues to light.


Any type of workplace discrimination needs to stop. While it is up to the companies to implement changes, as employees we are the foundation for change and can be brainstorming ways to create a more inclusive workplace. Perhaps mentorship, advisory, or philanthropy programs for reconciling different generations in the workplace, more apps like “Open Sesame” for the differently abled, and constant fighting back against gender discrimination, can be the impetus for change. I once wrote: let’s start the future of work now. Let’s allow the last generation and the newest generations to work and learn together. Let’s create industries of age inclusivity where everyone can continue to find their purpose and find dignity within their working lives. As we start a New Year, we need to do this now more than ever. The world will only move forward if we have everyone working toward a shared goal, and this one seems pretty simple: since everyone has the right to work, let’s make all workplaces the most inclusive they can be. It’s an old rule, but a cardinal one, especially for the workplace: treat others the way you want to be treated. And businesses will only thrive from this inclusivity. In the words of the Harvard Business Review, “diversity is the key to unlocking innovation in a business.”

The Future: Defined By Me

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When looking forward to a new year, many people look toward the goals they set (and probably won’t meet) and what’s literally to come, whether that’s a new iPhone, car, or digital technology. For example, In 2019, we will most likely see additional applications of blockchain to other industries, new breakthroughs with AI, and the 3D printing of metals, which will have a large impact on the manufacturing industries. These technologies will revolutionize our immediate future, but their current applications also allow us to hypothesize about what they will enable us, as human beings to do, not just in 2019, but beyond.  

Technology will certainly be a part of redefining what humans are in the future. We already know that blockchain will impact humanity, as we have seen through its work with refugees. In the future, blockchain will certify identities. This will blur the lines of nations and turn individuals into their own states. We will become autonomous creatures, certifying ourselves. Using this idea of the state dissolving, the thesis is that people will tire of “things happening to them” and will create like-minded tribes using technology to further democratize the world around them. For example, there will be Social Responsibility tax for funding, which will support the climate. And just forget about the stress of the holiday travel. Artificial Intelligence will enable teleportation.

Not only will technology essentially erase governments, but it will become one with humans. What does this mean? Our brains will become our devices, as we “read’ other people. Creeped out by this? Never fear! There will be a “do not share capability.” And, since our brains are now technology, we will be able to absorb knowledge in seconds. But, what if you are tired of being forced-fed content? Individuals will be able to co-create scenes at any time and be paid for the co-creation. Lack of privacy and the elimination of randomness from the human experience will be the downside, leading to cries for a “serendipity on or off button.” Individuals will have to be cognizant of their privacy being abused, and might want to demand payment for the use of their identities as product.

Maybe a great tradeoff for the elimination of privacy and randomness, is the possibility that we may never have to say goodbye to those individuals who have graduated to a newer dimension that we define as death. Whether we will have the ability to keep our consciousness alive via software or create an avatar of ourselves or loved ones, there is a very real possibility we will see people’s representation after what we define as death. Moreover, we will be able to protect ourselves to a greater extent with human enhancing tools at our disposal, including personalized home robots.

In my future, the technology of today will enable me to “see” or “hear” people whom I’ve met before. I may activate my “invisibility” option as to declare that I do not wish to be disturbed. My memory catalogue will be a service to me and potentially to others. In the words of Nikola Tesla “the present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked is mine.” The present is all these technologies, but this is the future for which I am working. As you look toward 2019 and beyond, what are you working for?


Data driven recruiting is here, but is it really up to the job?

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Advanced tech like AI is solving problems in almost every area in business, but are some of the newest solutions brought to human led departments like HR actually bringing us farther from a diverse and innovative workplace?

New companies like HireVue  offer an AI element of recruiting that we haven’t seen before. As interviewees answer questions into a video recording the software is picking up subtle cues based off of psychological science that points to the kind of person they are and what kind of talent you will be receiving. The system allows the interviewer to watch back the session, but also to see the data that the AI picked up that the interviewer might’ve missed had it have just been them in the room. AI has also been introduced to the beginning steps of hiring, by using its software to screen possible candidates and find the best matches available, saving recruiters almost 30% of their time.  

But are these programs always the perfect solution, and can AI really be ethically neutral? The algorithms that you find in these programs use small facial cues to deduce reasoning, but are we to expect that it can truly capture all complexities? This notion that everything that we present through our emotions and reactions can be simplified down to a science may be naive. The process also puts a lot of weight on emotion, but doesn’t allow for the ability behind the interviewee to shine through, which could lead to passing up possible candidates that don’t perform well in an interview setting. It is that bit of human intuition that allows recruiters to see past small ticks in an interview that this software just can’t replicate.

These programs were also proposed to reduce bias, but could end up inviting a different kind of bias to the table. As people begin to be hired based on the way they act it could force new recruits into a homogenized behavior that they know will get them the job. This may force out-of-the-box recruits that are often some of our greatest thinkers to the bottom of the pile. Even though companies are saving time, and sifting through more talent, it may come at the cost of a different type of diversity.

We also have to remember the many different people looking for work. The needs of everyone may not be met with just a video representation of their skills. Think of a prospective employee with autism, or a similar type of ailment that doesn’t allow them to interact in a way that fits the social norms built in to these programs. We may be able to save time with new tech, but completely removing a human element may poorly serve the fringe communities or minority groups.  

Technology will, and should, continue to push every industry forward, but it is up to us to question its validity and its shortcomings. Machine learning may fix these issues at some point, but until that is obvious it is paramount that we pad our technology additions with the humanized part of hiring.

Blockchain for Healthcare

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By the end of 2020, it’s predicted that there will be over 50 billion connected devices, all of which set the stage for millions of data transactions. As we move forward in this connected, digital first world, data is becoming a new kind of currency, or more so, we’re moving into a data economy. But in this new economy, privacy, which is a fundamental human right, becomes harder to maintain. Following several leak instances (think: Equifax), it has become apparent that consumers’ security and privacy is constantly at stake. Particularly in the realm of healthcare (where security-privacy is critical), it’s time for blockchain to step up to the plate.

So what’s the promise of blockchain for healthcare? The idea is simple. Centralized systems are not secure and are easily corruptible, as well as vulnerable to cyberattacks. Blockchain systems on the other hand, are decentralized and not prone to attack, because no one control system has the key to the data. This is where blockchain and health care intersect. Blockchain networks have the potential to keep data private and secure, even among billions of connected devices.

As Dr. Frances Hughes, healthcare activist and professional, states, “patients and consumers lack transparency, as well as health literacy, when it comes to some of the biggest decisions regarding their own lives and bodies.” Blockchain’s implications for reshaping health care are its abilities to provide “real time research data” when it comes to pharmaceutical safety and trials, audit and accreditation agencies, compliance processes, etc. With blockchain, the patient and consumer becomes fully in control of his/her own data, challenging the power structures of health providers and funders/insurers. No longer having healthcare services captured under others’ licenses, insurers, hospital administrators, etc. means transparency like never before, as well as security and trust.

As Entrepreneur examines, blockchain harnesses the power of encryption to assert its own immutability, and become a safer option than any physical database. Blockchain, unlike anything else, places the patient at the center of the healthcare ecosystem.

But blockchain’s value across healthcare extends to more than just security-privacy. A common database of health information for doctors, providers, and patients to access at all times can also result in more time spent on patient care, better sharing of research results for new treatments, enhanced drug development through result accessibility, and even minimization of claim and billing fraud.

Most radically, blockchain can transform medical innovation—and perhaps even the prediction and prevention of cancer. As Nasdaq reports, a person’s genomica data holds high market value, and a startup called Shivom (which utilizes blockchain technology) is partnering with leading molecular diagnostics company Genetic Technologies (GTG) to accelerate the prediction of cancer for millions of individuals.

“The low-cost management of data that it enables allows us to revolutionize how genomics is presented to the world, co-founder and COO of Shivom, Gourish Singla, says of blockchain. Shivom’s blockchain-centric healthcare platform puts ownership of data right into the hands of individuals, and integration of such a database enables GTG to better identify, and thus prevent, cancer risks. THAT’s just one example of why blockchain could be the future of healthcare.

Like other industries, blockchain has the potential to radically disrupt the industry—and healthcare is an industry long due for disruption.