17 Dec Looking Beyond Silicon Valley: Lessons on Diversity & Inclusion
A few weeks ago, I attended INFORUM’s event “Beyond Bro Culture: Tech’s New Leadership Lens,” where a panel of top technology executives discussed how to build the next wave of industry leadership.
The panel was moderated by the New York Times’ technology editor Pui-Wing Tam and the speakers were Bridget Frey, chief technology officer at Redfin; Josh Reeves, CEO and co-founder at Gusto; Tina Sharkey, CEO and co-founder at Brandless; and Wayne Sutton, director of program development at Backstage Accelerator.
As a Silicon Valley native and woman in tech, the topic of diversity and inclusion strongly resonated with me.
I have witnessed with my own eyes how my small town, 45-minutes south of San Francisco boom into what Silicon Valley is today. I have also seen the tech landscape transform as more women, including many close female friends and colleagues, enter the male-dominated industry.
Here are a few key takeaways I want to share on how individuals and companies can help play a role in shaping a more positive environment.
1. Diversity and inclusion means more than just your gender, age, ethnicity and culture
When the topic of diversity and inclusion is brought up, most people immediately think that it has to do with their background. However, it goes beyond that. Inclusion is about people being comfortable with who they are and encouraging them to grow within the company. This could be as simple as helping an employee voice their opinion/thoughts more during a brainstorm session or placing them in a position that leverages their strengths.
2. Bring your company beyond San Francisco and the Silicon Valley
One of the best ways to learn about diversity is going outside of your comfort zone. As many major cities in the United States begin or continue to grow, hiring outside of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley is a surefire way to instantly gain new insights outside of your geographic and socio-economic comfort zone.
3. Culture is something we create and not consume
Many prospective employees are guilty of asking the interviewee these two questions: “what’s the workplace culture like?” and “what’s your favorite thing about working here?” Yes, this is a very important question as it can give you insights into the company environment. While a company may have a culture in place, culture is also something that you, as an employee, have to instill in the company every day.
4. Practice what you preach outside of the workplace
Treating others fairly shouldn’t stop once you walk out the door at the end of the day. Being self-aware of how you think and treat people outside of your company is just as important as it is a reflection of your character no matter where you are and who you’re with.
5. Stay optimistic
Although the tech industry has made some leeway with diversity and inclusion, it still has a long way to go. Celebrating small wins, such as acknowledging women who work in tech (from founders to engineers), is a great way to stay optimistic for the future of the tech industry.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, diversity and inclusion will always be a shifting landscape in the workplace. As PR professionals, we must do our due diligence to identify these sensitive touch points when providing our clients the counsel they need when strategizing their next PR campaign.