This conversation on the Inclusive Growth Show is with Pil Byriel, co-founder of Develop Diverse, an impactful tool that highlights both the power of language and the role that technology can play in accelerating progress towards inclusive workplaces.
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Toby Mildon: Welcome to the Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.
Toby Mildon: Okay, hey, thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Podcast. I am Toby Mildon, and today I'm joined by a really great guest, her name is Pil. And Pil is actually based over in Copenhagen, and just before we hit the record button, I was saying that Copenhagen is probably my favorite city in the world. I love going to the Louisiana Art Gallery, which is just on the outskirts of the city, and there's so much to see within the city center itself, but Pil is based over in Denmark, and I am based over in the UK.
Toby Mildon: And Pil is the co-founder of a company called Develop Diverse, but this is not the first time we've come across Develop Diverse, because I actually interviewed Pil's co-founder, Jenifer, on this podcast a few months ago, where we talked about the impact of language and in the previous episode, I did with Jenifer, we explored the concept of inclusive language and its impact on diversity and inclusion within the workplace. And Jenifer emphasized that language is not merely a tool for expressing ideas, but it actively shapes our understanding of the world and consequently our culture and she defined inclusive language, as that which avoided stereotypical connotations, thereby reinforcing the stereotypes even unintentionally. And she provided examples to illustrate how job descriptions, for example, with phrases like competitive company or ambitious teams might appear more to some people, while phrases like nurturing company or thoughtful ideas might appeal to some other people.
Toby Mildon: So to attract a diverse applicant pool, she recommended looking into using neutral terms like aspiring company or motivated teams and innovative ideas. But beyond gender, which is what Jenifer and I were talking about, she pointed out that language can also discourage people based on other characteristics like age or ethnicity, or neurodiversity or physical disabilities. And she agreed that much of the bias in language that we use is unconscious, it stems from ingrained cultural norms and stereotypes. And we also discussed the transitioning of terminology from masculine and feminine traits to agentic and communal traits to better capture the diversity that exists beyond gender, which is new terminology that I learned and now share with my clients.
Toby Mildon: So Jenifer and I discussed the role of technology in promoting inclusive language, which is where Develop Diverse comes in because it is a platform for looking at language. And Jenifer explained how the platform uses natural language processing and machine learning to provide real-time suggestions for more inclusive language, while the person is actually typing away. This not only helps make texts more inclusive, but it helps individuals, unlearn their implicit biases. And Jenifer shared some really compelling data with us about real world impact of using their software, and hopefully in our conversation today with Pil, we'll learn some further client case studies and companies like Amazon saw a four-fold increase in qualified women applicants and Vestas saw a 15% increase in women within leadership roles within six months of using the software. So it's a really impactful tool. So overall, our conversation underscored the power of language that we either reinforces or dismantles stereotypes. And then the role that technology can play in accelerating progress towards inclusive workplaces. So, I mean, it's a real honour to be able to catch up with the other co-founder of this wonderful software, Pil. So, Pil, welcome along. It's lovely to see you.
Pil Byriel: Thank you so much, Toby. And what a welcome and what an introduction. Now, I don't know where to start. But as she said, I'm the co-founder of Develop Diverse. My pronouns are she/her. I'm based in Copenhagen. I also enjoy the city very much as I also shared with you before, Toby. But just a quick introduction to myself as well, just before we dive in to the big conversation here. So I always worked in technology, I've always been working, especially on human behavior, I have a formal education within business, but also communications especially in linguistics. But I've always worked in the tech field, I always work with technology, how can we leverage technology to actually create a better future of work, create better ways of working, create greater employee engagement, which also led me to, I both work and lived in the US to do more of a human behavior understanding and research using technology.
Pil Byriel: But also more recently, which led me as well to the idea of Develop Diverse and then joining Develop Diverse alongside Jenifer, was that I worked in a company called Peakon previously, where we worked a lot on employee engagement, building better workplaces by listening to our employees more frequently. And I especially remember one time when I was talking to customers, talking to people out there about the need for employee listening, and I kept getting the question about diversity. How do I... Of course, we need to listen to our employees, of course, we need to build up engaging workplaces. What my real problem is to get more women into leadership. How do I do that? How can I leverage the technology of Peakon at the time to do that? And we didn't have the answer.
Pil Byriel: And as I could see, nobody had that answer to how do we actually do it? How do we handle it? So alongside Jenifer, really teaming up to make sure we could build a software that and take it to market and take it out to the companies to actually give them a concrete way, a tangible way to work with diversity, work with inclusion specifically, to not only get more women into leadership, but actually create equal opportunities in the workplace. And that is still the mission and vision that we have today at Develop Diverse. So that was sort of my way into Develop Diverse alongside Jenifer, who you spoke to previously.
Toby Mildon: You and I have got a similar background because I used to work in technology before I got into diversity and inclusion, and I was very much focused on the user experience side of technology and also accessibility as well. So it's interesting how our careers can converge and intersect.
Pil Byriel: Yeah.
Toby Mildon: I mean, when I sat down with Jenifer in the previous episode, our focus was very much around language used in talent attraction and recruitment, particularly in language that you use in job descriptions, whether that's appealing to some people or not. But I know that the Develop Diverse platform has evolved since then, and you're now looking at language used in corporate communications. So language used on website careers pages, that kind of thing. Lets begin there. I mean, what are some of the common stereotypes that you're seeing within business communications? How are these stereotypes being reinforced? And ultimately what's the impact that you're seeing happening? .
Pil Byriel: So in general, right, I think what we really focus on is the attraction piece, as you say as well. So, how do we make sure that we can actually build an all-round inclusive brands? Both for greater inclusion, so that our employees are proud of working here and can see themselves in our brand that we're putting out there, which affects retention and engagement overall. But also of course, for the attraction of new talent and new people to join our organization for diversity of thought. The stereotype that we tend to see in corporate communication follow the stereotypes we have in society very much, right? So the moment it becomes a problem is, of course, when we want to build and represent society, which luckily most companies realize they have to do today. They make a strategy, they want to have either whether it's more women in leadership, they wanna focus on building a greater representation of ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, so forth, but at the end of the day, they don't see the results they were hoping for, right? That's the typical image that I see. And what we then see a lot of times is that when companies come to us and we look at the text and the general brand, whenever they talk about the company and who they are, they are emphasizing a stereotype.
Pil Byriel: That's just... We have a lot of engineering companies that employs a lot of engineers, for an example. And they come to us and they can say, you know, we just don't believe they're women out there because we don't get them. So how does that... Why is that? And what we see is that they tend to only have images of able-bodied white Caucasian men on their website. And describe themselves that they're the leading company within this field, they are building on strong teamwork and so forth. The whole image they're describing, using to describe themselves, both in terms of text and images, just doesn't align with what they want, the results they hope to achieve. What it really does is that it reflects the stereotype that most often they see internally. So most often when they look internally, that is also the people who are represented in the company already, and it's also what the general stereotype is. Even you and I, Toby, where we're very aware of our biases. We're very aware, we would still tend to have a stereotype around what does an engineer look like.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, absolutely.
Pil Byriel: What does somebody in HR look like? And how do they behave? I think, so that is just what tends to be reflected in implicitly, of course, not explicitly, we're not saying that we're looking for a white Caucasian male in our pages, but we say that implicitly, which makes it very difficult for ourselves to reach our goals.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, so when I caught up with Jenifer last time, basically the technology enabled somebody to copy and paste the job description, for example, there were job ads, and then the platform would give real-time instant feedback. How has the technology evolved since then that is enabling you to assess these corporate communications?
Pil Byriel: So we're building more and more on being where our users are making it easy. So by looking at URLs, for an example, sort of website altogether, pasting that in we can actually do an automatic scan of a website for an example. We still have the option of copy pasting. A lot of customers, they see that as a natural flow when they work with job ads for an example, but we tend to work more and more also when... For people who do a lot of sourcing on LinkedIn, how can we actually overlay our software on LinkedIn, so that we are inclusive in every way that we are approaching people on the outside, right? And create that equal opportunity through the language and don't emphasize that you have to look a certain way or behave a certain way in order to be part of this company. Right?
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Pil Byriel: So we've come some way since then.
Pil Byriel: That's brilliant. I mean, this is just the great thing about working in tech because it's just constantly evolving and adapting and living and breathing, and actually there's some really exciting solutions available and becoming available in one of those things. For example, it's just AI. I mean, over the last few... It just feels like over the last few months, AI has just completely blown up. There's so many AI tools out there. I use ChatGPT pretty much every day to help me be a lot more productive in my work, and I do know that talking to other people that do specialize in implicit bias, for example, but there are problems with AI and tools like ChatGPT. So I'm imagining the... Obviously, you're keen on using AI and incorporating into your solution, but what are some of the problems and challenges that you're noticing?
Pil Byriel: I really like to speak about this topic actually. I'm very passionate about it. So I think it's amazing with the recent innovations, especially within AI and actually making something like ChatGPT and other generative AI tools available to people to generate content fast. But it doesn't come without cost. There is always... From our side, when we look at bias, and when we look at the stereotypes in society, we have to think about how these tools are being built in the first place and how AI is generally being built. It's also had a lot of trouble in the past, actually, when companies have used AI tools to give them recommendations of who to hire, because what we do with AI, we train a model to provide recommendations, to provide an output based on all the data we put in there. So the output can only be as good as the input. It can never be better. And when we think about generative AI and something like ChatGPT, everything that's been put in there are generally all the content out there on the worldwide web. And that has been somewhat the reason why we don't see slang and very offensive language on there when we have outputs from ChatGPT is because there has been some... It has been filtered out to some extent. Right?
Pil Byriel: So we don't get all of that in our outputs, but there is no way that ChatGPT and generative AI knows what are bias and stereotypes. And they even put a little label as well inside in the bot. I don't know if you noticed, that every user should be aware that it might reinforce stereotypes, and we did a study on it actually, just to see, because I think in logical, you can think that ChatGPT would portray stereotypes to the same extent as humans because it's based on the human text and content on the internet, but AI actually amplifies that even more. And we compared 7,000 job ads written by ChatGPT versus 7,000 jobs ads written by humans, and it was 40% more biased than humans.
Toby Mildon: Wow.
Pil Byriel: So I think... But we tend to use output as if it was the golden truth in that way, right? And that is even when we prompt it to be inclusive.
Toby Mildon: Wow, that staggering. So the clients that are using your platform nowadays, the latest iteration of it, what are you noticing? What are some of the benefits that you're seeing?
Pil Byriel: So it tends to be mainly used for attraction. We're going more towards a full brand, of course, but what we see is that there's across the board, more equal opportunities. So we are, instead of having that tunnel vision of only attracting and appealing to the people who have the same behaviors we expect from a certain stereotype, we broaden that out and actually will appeal to a much larger group, everyone that actually have the competence and have the skills to do the job that we're looking for. Right? And they will have a greater sense of belonging, they won't exclude themselves already from the hiring process, which they otherwise tend to do when we use stereotypic words.
Pil Byriel: So we see across the board companys likes, Danske Bank, which is a Danish bank with more than 25,000 employees managed to get 81% more qualified women after using Develop Diverse into their candidate hiring process, and someone like Vestas actually managed to hire 15% more women into leadership, into corporate leadership, after using Develop Diverse because they got more women in the top funnel in the hiring process, in that way, right? That's the result that we tend to portray and show, but I think the really interesting thing and you also mentioned that before, Toby, that from your conversation with Jenifer, is that when there's also the self-reported learnings on how they learn about bias and how they actually become better and take that knowledge with them into the conversation with peers, into one-on-ones and throughout the company, that creates a big difference as well in how we are more intentional in our communication and aware of how we may come across.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, I've seen the impact firsthand myself, so when I was working at the BBC in user experience and design, we looked at job adverts and job descriptions for roles, like UX designer, for example, and we had a copywriter on the team and we actually manually re-wrote the job advert. We didn't use software. If we had used software, it would have probably accelerated the whole process, but at the time, I don't think actually, there was a lot. There weren't really many solutions like yours on the market at the time, but... So we manually re-wrote the job descriptions, and not only did we kind of considered gendered language, but we just looked at the overall quality. So job adverts or job descriptions would run over several pages. No one's got time to read several sides of A4, so we reduced the length of the documents. We made them a lot more punchy, a lot more interesting. We considered the type of language that we used. And what we did notice is that we noticed an increase in job applications, and in particular, we did see more women applying for roles with us compared to the old job descriptions of the job ads.
Toby Mildon: So this, it definitely works when you do analyze the language that you're using in your job ads, in your job descriptions. And I think when I do talk to my clients, actually, they don't think further back in the talent attraction recruitment process. They're not really thinking about the language that they're using on their careers website or their careers portals or the documents that get sent out as part of a recruitment process. For example, interviewing candidates to... Sorry, inviting candidates to interviews or job offer letters or things like that. So there's definitely a need for solutions like yours.
Pil Byriel: What interesting as well is that there's also a misperception or misconception in terms of that we should target language towards certain people. But we also know that doesn't actually work, right? So, a lot of companies, if they want more women, they tend to target the language towards that group, because that can seem like the rational thing to do, but by doing that, we're again, taking on the tunnel vision and we'll discriminate and exclude other groups because as you also said, with the framework that we're creating, we know that women are not just women, we also have an age, we also... That intersectionality really has to be taken into consideration on it too.
Toby Mildon: Definitely.
Pil Byriel: I think it's really, it's a wonderful example you mentioned here with your previous work with BBC.
Toby Mildon: I say, and one thing I think my biggest take away when I spoke to Jenifer last time was, the transition and terminology because previously that I was aware of using masculine and feminine language, or terminology. But Jenifer was saying actually, there needs to be a move towards talking again about agentic and communal traits because yeah, masculine and feminine is not necessarily linked to one's gender identity. It's like... So I actually quite liked that idea of moving towards agentic and communal traits or language instead. But you're right, I mean, as a disabled person myself, I've seen language in job ads, which makes me concerned about being able to do the job, like being really flexible and being able to travel at a minute's notice. That's quite difficult for me because I need to... I can't just jump on a plane. I need to plan travel ahead, I need to arrange taking carers with me. If I have to travel, I have to take a hoist to get in and out of bed. So it does take me... I can travel, but it just takes me a bit of time to put everything in place to do so. So the question I ask everybody when they come on this show, and I won't let you off on the hook is what does inclusive growth mean to you?
Pil Byriel: I think that's a really good... Really good question too to ask everybody. I think for me also both as a startup founder and working a lot, there is just no impact without economic growth and without the economic aspects. So, when I think about inclusive growth, I think a lot about inclusive economic growth, and how do we actually create equal opportunity in that way? And I think that's a lot what it is to me, and how do we both plan the growth and spend the money and invest in ways that is not taking advantage of marginalized groups in any way, of groups that are less privileged and use our privilege to make other privileged groups more privileged in that way. I mean, that's what inclusive growth is to me, and that will benefit everybody at the end of the day. And that's maybe a brief answer in that way, but I think that I've look a lot for good examples to come across here, and I think that... I think unfortunately, there's not too many good example. There's a lot of bad examples of how companies have really taken advantage of underrepresented group, marginalized groups in order to grow, because that has been the lowest cost in terms of big growth. It's a lot of production, a lot of others.
Pil Byriel: It's also governments during the same, right? And taxation systems decided with a lot of inequality and less good examples, I would say. But that's where companies can really make a difference and actually prioritize that inclusive growth. Close the pay gap, make sure we actually bring equity into the picture and really make that part of the DIB and not just call it D&I anymore. And I think the E within that for companies is really where the inclusive growth comes into the picture.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Excellent. I love it. Thank you. Finally, if the person listening to us right now wants to learn more about Develop Diverse, maybe they even want to give it a go, put in their job ads, get real-time feedback, look at the language that they're using on their career site, maybe some of the stereotypes that they're reinforcing, how should they go about doing that?
Pil Byriel: So I really would recommend everyone to go in and see how their own texts, job ads, whatever it may be, how they portray bias, whether they do or not, and learn a bit more. So by going into our websites and on the developdiverse.com, going into the upper right corner and click on the login, it can prompt you to create a trial user, and I really recommend that everyone will do that, we don't take any payment or anything like that. It is just a good learning and even better if you let me know afterwards and how your experience has been, that will be just wonderful. The more we can spread out this knowledge, the better and I hope everyone will take the chance to learn a bit and be more intentional in the language.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. I've already got you one potential user.
Pil Byriel: Very nice.
Toby Mildon: So I was speaking to a client yesterday who's struggling to fill the vacancy in his organization. And we were talking about the language that he was using in his job description and job ads. And I said, "I think I've just got the right thing for you, you need to go over to the Develop Diverse, and just pop in your job ad and see what stereotypes and biases you're reinforcing, 'cause that might give an indication about why you're struggling to attract people into this particular role. So yeah, look out for him. Hopefully he'll log on soon. Pil, thank you ever so much for joining me today. It was great to catch up with the other half of Develop Diverse and so now I've had the opportunity to sit down with yourself and Jenifer. And I just love how the product has evolved and your product is looking at the language and the stereotypes that are being reinforced, not only in the job ads and the job descriptions, but also through corporate communications and what's being put out on the corporate website and things like that. So I can't wait to see how your product evolves and develops and makes such an important impact on the world. So thank you very much.
Pil Byriel: Thank you so much, Toby. It's been a true pleasure of joining. Thank you so much.
Toby Mildon: You're welcome and thank you for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show with myself and Pil. Today, hopefully our conversations today has sparked some inspiration, given you some ideas on things to look out for, maybe inspired you to just review language used in your own job ads and job descriptions and in your corporate communications. As previously discussed, if you think that Develop Diverse is a tool that can help you, please do go along to their website and create the trial user account. As Pil said, it's free to give it a trial run. So there's nothing to lose. Just go out, give it a go and see if it helps you make a bigger impact in the world. So thanks ever so much for tuning in, and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of this podcast, which will be coming out very soon. Until then, take good care of yourself.
Toby Mildon: Thank you for listening to the Inclusive Growth Show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.