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Women Leading The AI Industry: “Women should act like women and take advantage of our feminine strengths” With Denise Leaser of GreatBizTools

I’ve read so many articles which tell women to act like men. I think women should act like women and take advantage of our feminine strengths. Our feelings and intuitions will serve us well in an AI world, where distinctly human skills will be considered a valuable premium. Second, we have to become lifelong learners […]


I’ve read so many articles which tell women to act like men. I think women should act like women and take advantage of our feminine strengths. Our feelings and intuitions will serve us well in an AI world, where distinctly human skills will be considered a valuable premium. Second, we have to become lifelong learners to be able to lead. If you are not learning something new, taking courses and experimenting — and failing — you cannot lead. Third, write, speak and become a thought leader. Write blogs, attend conferences and submit abstracts for speaking positions. Remember, this space is changing so fast, you only need to be a few chapters ahead of everyone else to be a leader.


I had the distinct pleasure to interview Denise Leaser, President of GreatBizTools.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?

I was working as an executive for a major retailer when I got the news my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My whole life was turned upside down. How was I going to pay the bills? How would I be able to care for my daughter? I knew I had to completely reprioritize my life to focus on my daughter. I decided the best way to utilize my talents while being there for my daughter was to start my own business. I have always loved people and always, from my days as a very young child, wanted to help people. Shortly after starting my own business, I was asked to consult for another consulting company. Within a few years, we decided to merge our companies to grow it to where it is today.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Misfortune and unexpected life circumstances can lead you to do things you never would have imagined. And, if you believe in yourself and the resilience you may not realize you have, your present circumstances will lead you to a better life than you have now. My daughter’s diagnosis led me in a different, unexpected direction and it has allowed me to actually fulfill my childhood dreams of help people change their lives for the better.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We are working on a project with IBM to help people identify careers they will love, help them understand their skills gaps, then create roadmaps to get them there. Too many people are in the wrong careers and don’t realize they are within reach of a better job. Most just need a few skills. Others don’t even know where to begin. For the IBM project, we reverse-engineered our job fit tests to create an assessment that, in less than an hour, will help people identify dream career roles that match their skills and personalities. How great is that?

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My business partner, Barry Farrell, has been a terrific mentor to me. When I was just starting out, Barry literally taught me everything he knew about psychometrics and assessments. That foundation has allowed me to create new ways to help companies find great employees — and to help employees identify strengths they didn’t know they had.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

Well, first, I see AI as augmented intelligence, and when you think about it that way you can start to see the the possibilities that AI can bring to HR. AI can add additional insights into people’s personalities and motivations that most people wouldn’t be able to gain on their own. AI programs, such as tone analyzer (analyzing the tone of peoples voices to gain personality insights) and body language analyzer help people see what they can’t see on paper.

Second, AI can help the disabled compete for jobs in a much more equitable way. AI solutions like speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools can level the playing field and provide great productivity tools.

Third, AI can minimize bias that is inherent in interviewing. Using structured tools and insights ensures that only job-related information is used — and not information that can lead to bias such as what school a candidate went to, her age — even surnames and gender can introduce unconscious bias even with the most conscientious individuals.

Fourth, and here’s where the real exciting part is, AI will free up HR from the more mundane tasks so they can focus on strategic business building initiatives. It allows HR to focus on more people-centered activities such as providing a more personal onboarding experience, coaching and ensuring employees are reaching their full potential.

Last, AI will focus us on the skills and personality traits that are uniquely human. HR will be able to look beyond the numbers and identify candidates’ strengths that are not obvious. There are many things machines will never be able to replace such as creativity, creative problem-solving, empathy, and even common sense.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

The big concern is this: AI works by being trained to analyze and recognize what you are looking for. If the model that you’re basing everything on is biased then you can introduce systemic bias. We know this has already happened with some of the early HR tools that hit the market. Additionally, if you don’t train the system properly, you could be screening out candidates would be a great match — or not screening out candidates who should be excluded.

Ethics is my number two: There are a lot of potential issues with ethics when it comes to AI. Ethics in computing matter more than ever in an AI world. Think about the implications an unethical programmer could introduce.

Third, I think there could be a potential to rely on AI too much. Eliminating the human element would be a huge mistake. AI can add efficiencies to HR, but it should not replace the human factor. You still need human oversight and interaction. AI can’t do everything. Human beings need to manage AI, focus on strategy, creativity, collaboration, empathy, common sense and other distinctly human strengths.

Fourth, there is the potential for using information that shouldn’t be used in the hiring practices. For example, for legal purposes, HR should only be looking at job-related Information when they are considering a candidate. AI has the possibility for analyzing personal information that has no place in the screening process.

Last, AI will speed up the rate of change that we have already seen in the workplace. This means that companies which are not able to adapt quickly, or do not help their employees adapt, will be left behind. Employers need to start looking at their employees as lifelong learners and they need to develop a learning continuum. Companies will need to provide ongoing training and opportunities for their employees so that they can compete in the future. They will also need to develop talent tools from internal candidates to plan for job or career changes and provide opportunities for advancement internally.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

I think it’s overblown. Just five years ago, the late scientist Stephen Hawking made a dire prediction: The “development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race.” These ideas are not new. in 1867, Karl Marx wrote machines can destroy the workman himself.

I see AI as augmented intelligence: My work is focused on developing cognitive solutions to improve hiring, reskilling and upskilling the workforce. I have never been more excited about the possibilities to augment HR to make better, faster decisions — decisions that make life better in our daily lives. There is ample evidence throughout history that rising productivity is typically accompanied by employment growth: it raises incomes, which are then spent, creating demand for goods and services across the economy. Ethics in computing is always going to be a concern, but that has more to do with human programming than it does with the machines.

That said, there will be a massive shift in the labor market, and employers and employees will be blindsided if they are not preparing for massive change.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

The World Economic Forum says machines and algorithms in the workplace will displace 75 million jobs by 2022. But they also say they will create 133 million new roles. That means 58 million net new jobs. But to prepare, organizations will need to provide significant reskilling programs. And employees will need to take personal responsibility for their career development.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Helping people get into the right careers has a huge impact on life — and on society. Using our technology, we can take someone who is mediocre in one role and place her in a role where she is a huge success. This has a ripple effect on salary, esteem, working interactions and personal relationships. I am working, right as we speak, with a group commissioned by the United Kingdom government to help the chronically unemployed and help them find careers — careers where they can be successful. These are people who have been on generational welfare, some have been substance abusers and others have gone through terrible things in their lives. This is what I live for. It’s what we all should live for, isn’t it — making a difference?

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

I’ve read so many articles which tell women to act like men. I think women should act like women and take advantage of our feminine strengths. Our feelings and intuitions will serve us well in an AI world, where distinctly human skills will be considered a valuable premium. Second, we have to become lifelong learners to be able to lead. If you are not learning something new, taking courses and experimenting — and failing — you cannot lead. Third, write, speak and become a thought leader. Write blogs, attend conferences and submit abstracts for speaking positions. Remember, this space is changing so fast, you only need to be a few chapters ahead of everyone else to be a leader.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

We can do the obvious things, like attending lunch and learns and lifting each other up. But really, we need to go into the schools, into underprivileged and underserved communities, and start earlier than that. We need to be mentors to young girls and women. I volunteer my time teaching science in the K-12 system, and that gives me an opportunity to actually be a role model at the most important time in their development. There has never been a better time in the history of the world for women to excel in business, but we have to equip the next generation with the skills and confidence to lead.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

In the book “Drive,” Daniel Pink wrote, “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.” I wake up every morning hoping I can be a person that helps make that happen.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Education without boundaries. We are only scratching on the surface of virtual training. Nothing excites me more than seeing the innovations in virtual skills development, adaptive learning and collaborative communities — and the empowerment that brings to people. Education truly democratizes the world and breaks down the artificial barriers. We are still in the first generation on this, and there is a need for breakthrough thinking here.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not heavy on social media, but my Twitter handle is @deniseleaser and my LinkedIn profile (better) is https://www.linkedin.com/in/denise-leaser/.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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