By Ellen McGirt
June 11, 2019

One of the signs that the Fortune CEO Initiative — a community of CEOs working to address pressing social issues as part of their core businesses — is working, is the fact that the participants themselves have given me a “to-write” list, to help keep the conversations going.

So, dear reader, you can expect a series of stories or resources, complete with expert commentary, on how to make boards more diverse, organizations more welcoming to employees of every background, and the media (yes, the media) more willing to dig deeper to tell stories about what’s working in the world.

So, raceAhead is going to have a busy summer.

While I help wrap up this year’s meeting which ends today, please enjoy my exceptional conversation with Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat. He explained the firm’s challenging work to reach their inclusion goals this way: “Where our industry has fallen short before is the organic, sustainable piece of it,” he said. “I think we’ve been okay at bringing women and minorities into the firm, but I don’t think we’ve created the environment that creates the sustainability of them wanting to be there.”

More from the CEOI, as summarized by Tamara El-Waylly, below. :

Speaking from Fortune’s CEO Initiative, executives described the numerous challenges they face when it comes to implementing A.I.As Erika Fry reports from the conference: “companies big and small are scrambling to deploy artificial intelligence.” And with that effort comes retraining, restructuring and, when it comes to ensuring diversity, dealing with “skewed A.I. algorithms.” The CFA Institute’s CEO Paul Smith emphasized that some industries are “massively biased to begin with. It’s very hard to screen out bias.” The failure to differentiate A.I. from “the same biases, issues, and underperformance” of humans, said Patrick Cogny, a Genpact senior executive, means companies lose out on the “potential of A.I.” As Lorraine Hariton, president and CEO of the nonprofit Catalyst, pointed out, it’s essential to ensure bias doesn’t seep into the process by focusing on “diverse and inclusive teams.” But these challenges are only exacerbated in smaller companies, private equity firm Grain Management’s CEO David Grain pointed out, given the speed at which A.I. is developing.

Microsoft’s Brad Smith discussed how shifting political and public attitudes mean more are viewing the “hipster version” of antitrust in an increasingly positive light, writes Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts, who pegged these comments to a larger discussion on “tech companies responsibility to confront social issues.” For Microsoft, taking more responsibility on such issues has manifested into efforts to address the housing crisis in tech hubs, Smith said. The company recently invested $500 million on expanding housing in Seattle, for example. Smith also pointed to facial recognition, “the first real concrete application of artificial intelligence,” he said, as another major issue. The technology, which Microsoft recently denied California police access to, remains unregulated in the U.S. with the exception of San Francisco. Regulation of facial recognition will occur at the local levels first, Smith predicted, as he foresees that federal regulation will lag behind.

Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, believes political divisions and “great economic and technological disruption” are “fundamentally linked,” reports Fortune’s Robert Hackett. It all “roots down to this skills issue,” she said. The skills divide, fostered by the digital revolution, must be bridged so that all can participate, Rometty said. She added: “The system has got to work for everyone.” IBM, as Hackett writes, has already made efforts towards that through P-tech, an education program developed to “cultivate talent,” particularly among minority communities. The initiative has only grown since its creation in 2011, and includes some 500 companies.

Here’s to making business better for everyone.

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