School of Business Associate Professor Dr. Kafui Monu has seen the benefits of having more diverse voices engaged in research, both in the quality of the studies and how the knowledge is mobilized.
As technology plays an ever-increasing role in how businesses make decisions, Dr. Kafui Monu says there needs to be a diverse group of researchers studying how information systems are deployed.
“Diverse voices are always important in research to ensure that new perspectives and areas of research are included in the field,” says Monu, an Associate Professor at UNBC’s School of Business. “For instance, in the management and use of artificial intelligence diverse voices are important since developers inform what is considered ‘normal’ by the system.”
Monu gives the example of facial recognition systems. The lack of diverse voices in the development of those systems resulted in biases that were embedded in the technology, so the final product was not able to distinguish between pictures of Black people.
Diversity will also help ensure the fruits of the research are shared more equitably.
“Diverse voices in research can ensure that all types of organizations are given the tools to better use information systems in their operations instead of just large corporations,” Monu says.
But to have more diverse voices in research, more Black students need to enter the field.
“When I was a kid, I used to hear discussions about business and the economy and wanted to have a better understanding of what people were talking about,” Monu recalls.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Manitoba, Monu started by taking introductory courses in areas that piqued his interest, including computer science, psychology, and marketing.
“After the courses, I realized I could get a two-for-one deal by going into business,” he says. “Later I found out it could be a three-for-one deal when I found out that management information systems connects business to computers.”
Monu said the idea of beginning a Management Information Systems degree can be daunting for some young Black scholars who may not appreciate the potential of the degree.
“I think that one barrier to more Black people in the field is that students feel that information systems is a ’nerdy’ discipline that only leads to Silicon Valley,” Monu says. “Since Silicon Valley has its issues with diversity, they feel that MIS is not for them.”
Management Information Systems allows students to combine their passion for technology and curiosity for business to discover how to use data to help organizations reach their goals, but Monu says it’s incumbent on programs to demonstrate how the degree is relevant to businesses and organizations that matter to them.
“Students need to understand that they can help these businesses better use these systems,” Monu says. “I think increasing the number of Black people in the field depends on showing this connection so that it is not thought of as something remote but connected to their everyday experiences.”