During the last week of October, TechInclusion 2016 set the stage for two powerful days dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) featuring over 150 speakers, numerous workshops, a massive Career Fair and over 2000 attendees. An initiative by Change Catalyst, TechInclusion is a product of the hard work, drive and vision of Melinda Epler and Wayne Sutton. As we try to process the results of this presidential election and the impact, the need to focus on diversity and inclusion, share knowledge and educate, create and support safe work environments, share ideas and innovation around D&I is at a new critical high.
The TechInclusion Welcome Statement describes how the event formed from an idea two years ago:
“At the time, there were very few resources for people looking to create change in the tech industry – few places for tech diversity & inclusion professionals to learn the how’s for educators to meet with recruiters to discuss solutions, for policymakers to listen and discuss issues across the Industry, for investors and underrepresented entrepreneurs to connect. And very few places for anyone in tech to experience inclusion.
A year ago we were very afraid no one would show up to come together and do this work. And then we sold out.”
The second annual TechInclusion event took place on October 26th and 27th at the Innovation Hangar, a space large enough to accommodate an audience that continues to grow after the success of the inaugural event in 2015.
A snapshot of event highlights:
Deaf in Tech Panel featuring Eugene Albright of Linguabee, “KR” Liu of Doppler Labs, Eli Rosseter of Slack and Will Johannson of Rdio.
This panel shared their experiences within the deaf community and culture and outside, and ways to approach inclusion in the workplace. For a change of perspective, the audience and panel had the benefit of an incredible interpreter who translated the panel discussion from American Sign Language to spoken word.
A Solo Talk by Michael Thomas, presenting “Awakening to the Freedom of Inclusion”, focused on the topic of intergenerational trauma and the need to accept “our own life experiences… [otherwise] we cannot be open to accepting the presence of others.”
Presentations by Todd Park, Sabrina Williams, Courtney Wallace and Katy Pham discussed various technology initiatives and programs at US Digital Service, and the state of tech and diversity from The White House.
Lucienne Gigante of Golden Seeds/Animus presented a Solo Talk on The State of Tech in Puerto Rico. Regarding Tech in Puerto Rico: “In the past 40 years 400,000 jobs have been created, 73% by women.”
This presentation was followed by a fantastically strong panel “Latinas Empowering Latinas” featuring Deldelp Medina of Code2040, Andrea Guendelman of BeVisible, Lucienne Gigante, Maica Gil of SF International Womens Entrepreneurship Forum, moderated by Carolina Echeverria of Univision. A standout number: “In fact only 30% of Latinx millennials are on LinkedIn.”
David Drummond, Senior VP of Corporate Development for Alphabet with Mary Grove, Director at Google for Entrepreneurs for a fireside chat on diversity at Google and beyond.
Phil Dillard presented “The State of Veterans in Tech” a Solo Talk to discuss options and opportunities through technology and entrepreneurship to support military veterans making their re-entry after serving in active duty.
Indigo Ocean Dutton, presented a Solo Talk on “How Companies Can Prepare for the Next Racially Charged Slaying Before It Happens.” Her powerful talk asked the audience to empathize, “Imagine walking into work the next day after a slaying & everyone is talking about a sitcom.”
Cynthia Owyoung, founder of Breaking Glass Forums presented a Solo Talk on Turning Failures into Innovations in Diversity & Inclusion. Her inaugural Women of Color Leadership Conference this past June was a huge success and is now followed by a series of leadership events in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
Ending the 2nd afternoon was a Women Tech Leaders Keynote Panel, featuring Heather Friedland of Glassdoor, Yumi Clark of Capital One, Ana Arriola of Samsung, Jewell Parkinson of SAP North America and Melinda Epler of Change Catalyst as moderator.
Both days ended with a Happy Hour where attendees connected with one another and speakers. Event content was discussed, opportunities sought / available were shared, mentorship opportunities created, doors opened, connections and new friends made. This all inclusive environment of like minded and diverse individuals was one of a kind, refreshing, energizing and motivating.
The 2016 presidential election results shows how critical it is that we own our responsibilities to stand against racism, misogyny, xenophobia and discrimination. We need to stand up for social justice; the new norm isn’t intolerance, bullying and disrespect.
This brings home how important events like TechInclusion are. This group won’t allow a backward slide in education and opportunity for people of color, different gender identities or abilities. Attendees at this event were not just from the West Coast but from the East Coast and in between. The work to breakdown the barriers of discrimination and bias will not stop. Dialogue needs to remain open. Minds need to be open. The work to educate larger audiences on intersectionality, diversity and inclusion continues and so will the support net.
Find out more about what your company is doing to actively support diversity and inclusion and provide a safe fair place to work. Get involved, look for meetups in your communities, learn more about these organizations and find out what you can do, donate, mentor, read, learn and spread the word. A few places to start: