Briloff lecturer urges students to be ethical leaders
Maggie Chan Jones ’96 discussed ethical leadership in an age of disruptive technologies
While most of the students in attendance at the 32nd annual Abraham J. Briloff Lecture Series on Accountability and Society, held Sept. 24, are still a few years away from graduating, Maggie Chan Jones ’96 urged them to plan ahead.
Jones is the founder and CEO of Tenshey Inc., a tech-enabled, executive coaching company that helps women advance into leadership roles. Her talk, “Ethical Leadership in the Age of Disruptive Technologies,” focused on how students can prepare now to become leaders in a rapidly changing world.
“What kind of leaders do you want to be?” she asked.
“If you were to ask me this question 20 years ago, my answer would be different than it would be if you asked me 15 years ago. Our perspectives change based on the environment and the experiences we have,” she said.
And as the environment changes with new, disruptive technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, the lines between what’s right and what’s wrong can start to look a little blurry, Jones said.
“How do those technologies connect to our values? How do they help us make decisions?” she asked.
With more and more companies adopting these technologies, Jones said it’s the responsibility of leaders to determine how exactly they are to be used.
“AI and machine learning are great because they can allow us to make decisions based on a large amount of data that we couldn’t manually go through in a lifetime,” she said. “But if they’re used incorrectly or if there are biases in the way we created the software, then it can create huge problems.”
Jones cited as an example an MIT Media Lab study that found that AI algorithms are much better at distinguishing between light-skinned males than females with darker skin.
“You can see a vast difference in biases based on skin color and gender in the technology,” she said. “These are machines and algorithms that are built by humans who may have these biases themselves.”
Jones said she is encouraged by a push for more diversity in tech-related fields, in hopes that these biases will continue to be acknowledged and addressed.
As for how to prepare for a future being shaped by disruptive technologies, she encouraged students to:
- commit to being ethical leaders
- make their voices heard through their actions
- be kind and support one another
“Sometimes doing the right thing can feel uncomfortable,” Jones said, as she urged students to keep their personal values first and foremost, and to speak up when something happens that conflicts with them.
“Change is hard,” she said. “But I’ve always believed that if there’s a will, there’s a way.”