One-third of workers are ill or disabled—and this industry is shutting them out

Photo: Djim Loic/Unsplash

Whether you realize it or not, you are likely interacting with ill or disabled people regularly. According to recent survey data, a high portion of the U.S. workforce reports having a disability (30 percent), even though a much smaller percentage says they’ve self-identified as disabled to their employer (only 3.2 percent). Often, these illnesses and disabilities are impossible for others to observe, so many people choose to keep their conditions a secret from managers and co-workers to avoid discrimination.

Health is not binary; it can fluctuate and is subjective. I have experienced a number of health challenges, including having brain…


AI is being increasingly used to make important decisions. Many AI experts (including Jeff Dean, head of AI at Google, and Andrew Ng, founder of Coursera and deeplearning.ai) say that warnings about sentient robots are overblown, but other harms are not getting enough attention. I agree. I am an AI researcher, and I’m worried about some of the societal impacts that we’re already seeing. In particular, these 5 things scare me about AI:

  1. Algorithms are often implemented without ways to address mistakes.
  2. AI makes it easier to not feel responsible.
  3. AI encodes & magnifies bias.
  4. Optimizing metrics above all else…


Thirty percent of people under the age of 65 have a chronic health condition. Despite this prevalence, people with chronic illnesses or disabilities often face discrimination. Over a third of disabled people have experienced negative bias in their current job. The unemployment rate is twice as high for people with disabilities, compared to the general population, even though companies which are inclusive of people with disabilities are more financially successful. People with disabilities earn significantly less than non-disabled people with the same education level. …


I recently received the following question: Hi Rachel, I am a software engineer who is dealing with low self esteem. There are people at work who constantly belittle me and it is very subtle. I constantly get demotivated and find my confidence going lower and lower. I decided to find a new job but this confidence is affecting all my interviews. What is your advice?

Advice when you are in a toxic work environment

Based on my own experience and the experience of friends, if you think your job is at least somewhat toxic, it’s probably even worse than you realize. Toxic jobs often cause you to doubt your…


Deep learning has great potential, but currently the people using this technology are overwhelmingly white and male. We’re already seeing society’s racial and gender biases being encoded into software that uses AI when built by such a homogeneous group. Additionally, people can’t address problems that they’re not aware of, and with more diverse practitioners, a wider variety of important societal problems will be tackled.

Deep Learning has great potential

Deep learning is being used by fast.ai students and teachers to diagnose cancer, stop deforestation of endangered rainforests, provide better crop insurance to farmers in India (who otherwise have to take predatory loans from thugs, which…


The top advice I would give my younger self would be to start blogging sooner. Here are some reasons to blog:

  • It’s like a resume, only better. I know of a few people who have had blog posts lead to job offers!
  • Helps you learn. Organizing knowledge always helps me synthesize my own ideas. One of the tests of whether you understand something is whether you can explain it to someone else. A blog post is a great way to do that.
  • I’ve gotten invitations to conferences and invitations to speak from my blog posts. I was invited to the…


We tend to think that any effort towards diversity is a good thing, and that there is no harm in trying. But we should also listen to the other side of the story.

This post is part of the journey of the team at uxdesign.cc on learning more about Diversity and Design — and sharing what they learn along the way.

back·lash: a strong and adverse reaction by a large number of people, especially to a social or political development; recoil arising between parts of a mechanism.


Everything about the current interview process in tech is broken. I suspect that, no matter what, being evaluated and making judgements on others for a decision that has a big impact on you both is never going to be fun — especially since both of you only have a limited amount of time for the process. However, I think there is plenty of room to make tech interviews slightly less awful than they currently are.

The dreaded white-board interview! Photo from #WOCinTech chat

What is your goal in interviewing candidates? If you answered “to hire the best candidate” you should reconsider. Forming the best team is a goal…


This article has been translated into Portuguese by the Maria Lab and translated into Spanish by Anastassia Ivaškiva of Tallín University.

Women are more than twice as likely to quit the tech industry as men (41% vs 17%). Why is this happening? A study of 4,000 women who had recently changed jobs found that the #1 reason women leave companies is because of “a concern for the lack of advancement opportunity.” An extensive survey of hundreds of books, articles, and white papers concludes that women leave the tech industry because “they’re treated unfairly; underpaid, less likely to be fast-tracked than…


A study of data from 366 companies found that ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to perform well financially, and gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform well financially. Scientific papers written by diverse teams receive more citations and have higher impact factors. Teams with more women perform better on collective intelligence tests. So, successful tech companies must be working hard to create genuine, meaningful, diversity initiatives, right?

Facebook — A short case study in bullshit diversity “strategies”

Diversity is central to Facebook’s mission,” we’re told. So given that Facebook hired 1,231 people in 2013, how many black women were amongst them? The total count was…

One.

Rachel Thomas

fast.ai co-founder & professor USF Data Institute | twitter: @math_rachel

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