Symantec weighs in on LGBTQ equality at the White House
On Tuesday, August 23rd, two hundred LGBTQ professionals from around the nation gathered at the White House for the 3rd annual LGBT Tech and Innovation Briefing to discuss how technology can assist in addressing and correcting LGBTQ inequalities in this nation. The subjects ranged from poverty, homelessness, health & mental health, criminal justice reform, education, women & girls in tech, & national data collection & statistics reform (to name a few). These bright minds were tasked with delving into many complicated and complex topics so that we could create a roadmap for progress and set the tone for the upcoming TechUp Innovation & Inclusion Week — a series of events hosted in Washington, DC that are designed to bring together thousands of innovators from around the nation to actively solve America’s toughest challenges through technology this November.
At the briefing we broke out into topic-based focus groups so that we could brainstorm how to address each area of concern specific to the LGBTQ community. In my group we discussed the complexities of data collection and statistic reform. Historically speaking we have very little data when it comes to the LGBTQ community creating an environment where we recognize that the community is a minority, but because of the lack of data we don’t know how underrepresented the population actually is. Because of this, we dove into topics discussing:
- What the current state of LGBTQ data collection looks like.
- Why we should ask for this data, who should ask for it, how it should be used, and how to secure it?
- What are the consequences of data collection (positive and negative)?
- What are the consequences of data cleansing (positive and negative)?
- How to implement LGBTQ data collection standards?
- What format should these discussions take in the upcoming Innovation & Inclusion Week so that we can foster the right kind of environment to discover innovative new solutions?
One of my favorite moments during this focus group was when U.S. Chief Data Scientist D.J. Patil stopped by to discuss the topic with us. He was really excited to see a group coming together to discuss this topic because often times our community is simply overlooked or seen as an edge-case. This produced one of my favorite quotes from the entire day when he said: “you are not an edge case, you are a population” and reiterated that we deserve to be counted. Those simple words inspired me and the rest of my group to put together a plan for guiding innovators to find the solutions we need to address these issues.
Every focus group came together in the end to provide a quick report on what it was they discussed and what the action plan was for addressing these issues in the larger summit. It was really exciting to see people plan everything from discussion groups, to workshops, to hackathons. It was clear that this was just the beginning for us as we were now officially a part of the planning committee for the upcoming Innovation & Inclusion Week. We were all now part of something bigger, united through our desire for visibility and equality.
Having these conversations with such a diverse group of people really opened my eyes to the many points of view beyond my own that need to be taken into consideration when attempting to find solutions that take everyone into account. As a matter of fact, this event was by far the most intentionally diverse group of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Leanne Pittsford, the lead organizer, divulged that to find solutions she fully believes that all people must be represented. To that end she ensured that of the two hundred people present at the White House 50% were women, 50% were people of color, and 25% were transgender. For the first time in my life I was at a tech event where white cisgender men were NOT the majority. To some this may seem insignificant, however to me, someone who is a member of multiple minority classes in the technology sector, this was profoundly impactful and gave me hope that change is not only possible, but that indeed change is coming!
As if all of the stimulating and inspiring conversation wasn’t enough, we were also surprised by a unscheduled meet and greet with the First Dogs, Bo & Sunny, as well as a surprise tour through the East Wing of the White House.
I am truly honored to have been included in this process and am looking forward to the months to come as we collectively create a brighter, more diverse, and more inclusive future for all Americans.