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Can Virtual Reality Help Close the Gender Pay Gap?

By Elizabeth Winkler // Quartz // August 22, 2016

A visitor uses a Samsung virtual reality glasses during the Mobile World Congress Wireless show.
A visitor uses a Samsung virtual reality glasses during the Mobile World Congress Wireless show. // Emilio Morenatti/AP

The numbers always bear repeating: Just a few months shy of what may be the election of America’s first female president, women still make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Institute for Women and Policy Research. That’s a 21 percent wage gap that shows up in almost every occupation, across nearly all industries.

To be sure, 79 cents represents significant progress since 1964, when the average, full-time working woman made just 59 cents to a man’s dollar. But progress has stalled. Over the last decade, women have only seen a 2-cent improvement. At the current pace, IWPR projects women won’t reach pay parity until 2059, or another 44 years.

Variable Labs, a California-based virtual reality startup, believes technology can accelerate things. The company develops VR experiences “to foster empathy, develop soft skills, and change behavior.” Recently, Variable developers unveiled a tool that simulates salary negotiations, with the aim of training women to become more comfortable asking for compensation commensurate with their worth.

Salary negotiations aren’t the only reason for the gender pay gap, but empowering women to be more forceful in their discussions about compensation may help. A recent study...

OPM Wants Agencies To Review Their Telework Data

By Kellie Lunney // Government Executive // August 22, 2016

A. and I. Kruk/Shutterstock.com

The Office of Personnel Management wants federal agencies to take a closer look at their telework data to ensure greater accuracy when it comes to reporting the benefit’s use throughout government.

OPM is asking agencies to work with human resources staff and telework managing officers to examine their telework reports submitted through payroll “to determine any potential issues that may be affecting data reporting and accuracy,” according to a recent memorandum from Mark Reinhold, OPM associate director of employee services.

“OPM has discovered telework data collection and reporting remains an area of challenge for agencies,” the memo said. The 2010 Telework Act requires the human resources agency to report annually to Congress on the practice and analyze the data to show how telework is linked to agencies’ goals, including employee engagement.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office concluded that federal agencies in general aren’t doing a great job assessing the cost and benefit of telework. GAO said OPM should issue guidance telling agencies how to identify net savings from their employee telework policies to help the executive branch and Congress assess the value of the flexibility and properly oversee the government’s use of it. Nearly...

Tips for the FBI (or Any Organization) For Hiring a Data Scientist

By Ann Irvine // August 19, 2016

a katz/Shutterstock

Ann Irvine is principal data scientist at RedOwl.

The FBI announced it's hiring its first senior-level data scientist, meaning the agency is officially recognizing that insight into data is a critically needed piece of its risk management strategy.

However, as someone who has worked in the field for years, specializing in natural language processing and machine translation, I understand all too well the work the bureau has cut out for it in finding the right candidate and integrating that person into its organization—challenges that might prove larger than the agency originally anticipated.

Data Scientists Aren't Created Equal

First and foremost, data scientists across organizations and industries have wildly different backgrounds, skillsets and job responsibilities. That’s why it’s crucial for the FBIーor any organization in search of this type of new hireーto be very specific about what its data science needs are, what the new hire’s responsibilities will be, and how that person will fit into the organization’s day-to-day workflow.

For example, on my team at RedOwl, we have three types of data scientists who support our technology’s capabilities to prevent insider threats such as rogue trading on Wall Street or IP leaks...

Employers Use Workplace Wearables to Find Out How Happy and Productive We Are

By Stuart Frankel // Quartz // August 11, 2016

KieferPix/Shutterstock.com

How we work, who we work with, and even what we define as work is rapidly changing, but the most transformational change—at least for our professional lives—may be occurring at the intersection of data, sensors and artificial intelligence.

Companies in all fields are beginning to dive into the world of big data in order to increase the health and happiness of their employees, along with boosting productivity and overall output. Using a variety of methodologies including workplace wearables, employers now have more information than ever about their employees.

But what to do with that information?

Employers are beginning to take on more interest and responsibility in their employees’ mental and physical health. There are a variety of reasons for this. One of them is growing acknowledgment of the link between happy employees and better business performance.

As a result of this link, many companies are employing a range of approaches to assess the mood and well-being of its staff. For example, manufacturing company John Deere is testing a new, comprehensive, bi-weekly review system for measuring its employees using a “happiness metric.”

Beyond surveys, employers are now beginning to use technological methods to gauge employee well-being. Consider Hitachi, whose...

What Skills Will Human Workers Need When Robots Take Over?

By Jason Karaian // Quartz // August 4, 2016

Humanoid Robot "Pepper" is displayed at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo.
Humanoid Robot "Pepper" is displayed at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo. // Koji Sasahara/AP

A few years ago, Michael Osborne and a colleague at Oxford University caused a stir when they published research suggesting 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at risk of being replaced with robot labor. Subsequent studies suggest closer to 10 percent of jobs in developed countries could be automated, which is only marginally less worrying for workers.

What isn’t in doubt is that advances in algorithms and robotics will transform the workplace, with both rote manual labor and higher-level cognitive tasks soon to be performed by machines. Robotics companies, keen to avoid the insinuation their products take jobs from humans, talk a lot these days about “co-bots” (collaborative robots). Humans and robots will increasingly collaborate, they say, with humans freed to do more productive, fulfilling tasks thanks to machines taking on the grunt work.

Osborne’s latest project aims to predict what skills—independent of specific jobs—will be in highest demand among employers in 2030.

“A child starting education this year will enter a jobs market very different from what we see now,” says Mark Griffiths, research head at Pearson, the publishing and education company partnering in the research.

To determine what skills workers will...