All.ai keeps track of meetings to see who’s being heard and who’s being ignored

The team behind All.ai. (Left to right: Rumman Chowdhury, Roya Ramezani, Lori Mackenzie, Natalia Margolis)
Image: bbc 100 Women

When men and women collaborate to solve a problem—say, in a meeting—women speak at least 25 percent less than men do. 

That’s why a team at BBC’s 100 Women Challenge developed an app called All.ai to help women boost themselves at work—and to help everyone else quiet down and listen. The iOS and Android app isn’t available to download quite yet, but should be coming to the App Store soon. 

“Meetings are an important place to have your ideas be heard,” said Rumman Chowdhury, an artificial intelligence specialist at Accenture who helped develop the app. “Women in meetings are often overlooked or ignored or interrupted. In some situations men will get the credit. We wanted to disrupt how meetings are handled.” 

“We wanted to disrupt how meetings are handled.” 

Chowdhury and her team members developed All.ai—pronounced like “ally”—to solve those problems. The 100 Women Challenge tasked four groups around the world with a weeklong effort to tackle problems related to gender diversity: sexism in sports for the group in Rio de Janeiro; stopping street harassment in London; ending female illiteracy with the group in New Delhi; and cracking the glass ceiling among Chowdhury’s group in Silicon Valley. The women addressing these problems worked on technological solutions like All.ai, but also tackling problems through policy and art. 

If you open All.ai before stepping into a meeting, the app will tell you during what portion of the meeting your voice was heard. Users can elect to use the app to help themselves speak up more, or for the allies referenced to in the app’s name, to try to talk less and support anyone who’s often ignored when they speak during meetings. 

If you’re a man who tends to talk over your colleagues without realizing it, it’s the perfect solution. 

Setting your intentions in All.ai.

Image: All.Ai

All.ai’s record of your contributions to a meeting.

Image: all.ai

Along with recording how much of the meeting you spent talking, the app will offer helpful tips to be a better ally in the workplace, like “Shift your body language toward a speaker to signal their authority.” 

You can also record yourself setting a goal before a meeting, like “recognize someone else in this meeting” or “speak for at least one minute during this meeting.” 

After the meeting is over, All.ai analyzes your voice to tell you what you sounded like. Was your voice positive or negative? Did you sound authoritative or nervous? 

“We really loved the idea of allyship,” Chowdhury said. “That was one thing we wanted to tackle, along with unconscious bias.” 

The app uses AI to do all of this. Specifically, it relies on IBM Watson’s voice recognition tools to translate voice to text and then analyzes the text. The app says it doesn’t store any information about what’s happening in your meeting—only following voices and interpreting the feelings behind them. 

All.ai is a technical solution to a well-documented problem. It’s basically the app version of the women in the Obama White House who repeated each others’ ideas to make sure they were all heard. 

“The only way we tackle and solve these problems is if we understand these problems as everyone’s issues.”

Chowdhury and the rest of her team— software engineer Natalia Margolis, product designer Roya Ramezani, and gender researcher Lori Mackenzie—hope that their app will be used by managers to take responsibility for unconscious bias in the meetings they’re running. Bosses leading meetings could keep track of who’s talking and take the initiative to ensure they’re paying attention to everyone’s ideas. 

All.ai was one of this group’s ideas to tackle the subtle problems that hold women back in the workplace. They also considered developing an email tool that would examine emails for unconscious bias. If you referred to a woman as “nice” in an email, for example, it would prompt you too look at a few statistics about expectations for women to be people-pleasers. 

“The only way we tackle and solve these problems is if we understand these problems as everyone’s issues,” Chowdhury said. “We want to have more women not just physically there, but to create a culture in which women are allowed to shine.” 

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Tags: apps bbc business discrimination women-in-business women-in-tech women-in-the-workplace

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