Tech Inclusion 2017 – San Francisco – October 17, 2017 – October 20,2017
We attended the Tech Inclusion New York conference, sponsored by Google for Entrepreneurs and hosted by Change Catalyst/Tech Inclusion. The conference took place from October 17 – October 20 in San Francisco. The 3-day conference featured a Career Fair along with Career Coaches that met with job seekers at The Armory, while the next two days featured the Tech Inclusion conference.
A group of senior level executives across different industries/spectrums addressed Diversity and Inclusion, and provided insights about their efforts to prevent anti-Diversity/Inclusion practices both at a local level and a national level. They also discussed the role of Diversity and the impact in their companies.
Out of the many in-depth panel discussions, I found these 4 sessions the most impactful:
The first panel discussion was moderated by the founder of Change Catalyst/Tech Inclusion, Melinda Epler along with Candice Morgan - Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Pintrest, Candi Singleton – Vice President of Intersectionality, Culture, and Diversity at Twitter, and Danny Allen – Vice President at SAP Labs.
The panel touched on the State of the Technology Industry with respect to Diversity and Inclusion, and what concrete actions Pintrest, Twitter, and SAP are actively taking to integrate Diversity and Inclusion in their corporate company policies and procedures.
Here are the thoughts from Ms. Morgan, Ms. Singleton, and Mr. Allen as it relates to Diversity and Inclusion playing an active role in the Technology space:
Mr. Allen: The mindset of having a diverse and inclusive workforce is about having association with affinity – that is, having companies operate with other companies that they have a comfortable relationship with rather than forming new relationships and hiring individuals that have a diverse background and skill sets. Mr. Allen also explained that Silicon Valley needs to be more diverse – putting females, minorities, and African Americans in leadership positions to attract a more inclusive workforce. He also stated that compared to their male counterparts, females are more likely to face more challenges – funding for their companies, promotions within organizations. In order to see a shift in Silicon Valley, Mr. Allen said that the glass ceiling should be broken.
Ms. Singleton: Ms. Singleton believes that favoritism is one of many key elements that is playing an active role within Diversity and Inclusion in the Technology space. She believes that this is not unique within the space, but it has to be controlled. Ms. Singleton emphasized that is everyone’s responsibility to take on Diversity and Inclusion through the decisions they make on a daily basis, not just Senior Executives at Technology-based companies.
Ms. Morgan: Ms. Morgan believes that companies need to continue to challenge themselves to have a more Diverse and Inclusive workforce. She said that in order to overcome this challenge, the companies that hire need to be willing to hire individuals with a diverse background and skill sets.
Here are the thoughts from Ms. Morgan, Ms. Singleton, and Mr. Allen as it relates to Pintrest, Twitter, and SAP taking concrete approaches to integrating Diversity and Inclusion in their respective companies:
Mr. Allen: At SAP, we have three challenges that we are trying to address – Sourcing, Development, and Retention. On the Sourcing part, Mr. Allen described that SAP is trying to overcome the Outreach, Onboarding barriers, and Community Outreach barriers by hiring individuals with different backgrounds, skill sets. He said that retention is a combination of Sourcing and Development needs. He also said that the company might face higher attrition rates if there are no challenges for their employees or if they don’t feel engaged within the company.
Ms. Singleton: Intersectionality is all about building a more Diverse Network and it is important to have a Diverse network in today's work environment. It is on all of us to make important decisions daily and think about it from a Diversity and Inclusion perspective.
Ms. Morgan: Pintrest has an apprenticeship program that allows individuals that might not have a formal degree to learn the basics of Social Media, coding etc. The company has had success converting some of the program participants into full time employees within the company.
The second discussion was a Fireside Chat that was moderated by the co-founder of Change Catalyst and Tech Inclusion, Wayne Sutton and Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio and LaFawn Davis, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Twilio.
Mr. Lawson talked about his vision about Twilio as a whole and creating a "environment to embrace Diversity and Inclusion" from Senior Level Management to employees. He also noted that there were two distinct characteristics that set Twilio apart from their competition - 1. the concept of "Drawing the OWL" - which is based on the concept that a problem is identified and a solution should be formed. 2. Encouraging Senior Leaders and Employees to take risks.
Ms. Davis talked about how Diversity and Inclusion was being embraced by Twilio at a very early stage and that is what attracted her to joining Twilio. She also talked about how she was part of the team that put an Enterprise Resource Group, called Skittles together. The mission of Skittles was to have a common place where employees who are passionate about Diversity and Inclusion could participate in the company's overall goal to expand this policy in the company.
The third discussion was a Fireside Chat that was moderated by the Director for Google for Entrepreneurs, Mary Grove and Obi Felten, Head of getting moonshots ready for contact with the real world at X.
Ms. Felten talked about her background of how she was the Director of Consumer Marketing for Google .She is currently a Startup Angel Investor for Female-led companies.
She also talked about X and what their goal is. She said that the company's goal is to solve big problems through Technology breakthroughs, and said that X should be looked at as a "Moonshot Factory".
She said that there are 3 underlying principles that help dictate the success at X:
1. Audacity --> having the ability to solve large problems during irrational times
2. Having a safe place to fail
3. Creativity --> having different perspectives to tackle large problems.
The fourth discussion was a Fireside Chat that was moderated by the founder of Change Catalyst/Tech Inclusion, Melinda Epler and Ellen Pao, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.
Ms. Pao talked about what it might take to change the current state of Venture Capital in Silicon Valley.
She suggested the following:
- Having Venture Capital Partners being geninuely interested vs. fear of what their business partners might think.
- Having Small firms investing in a Diverse "pool" of companies.
- Companies might not be open to change.
She also talked about some of the actions that the Kapor Center for Social Impact is taking to overcome these barriers by having workshops where founders of different companies are trained in Code of Conduct policies, Fundraising etc.
The events on Day 1 were very inspiring and motivational.