10 Ways #TechInclusion15 Schooled Us All on Diversity & Inclusion in Tech

Mandela SH Dixon
Sep 13, 2015 · 4 min read
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It’s fair to say that I’ve been to over a hundred tech/entrepreneurship conferences, summits, meetups, happy hours, hackathons, etc. at this point. I’ve seen a variety of branding, missions, and structures centered on bringing people together in-person around the shared interests of using tech and entrepreneurship to make a difference in the world, or to be honest: “Just do cool sh*t.”

But a new conference — one I just left about an hour ago — was different. In fact, it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Over the past two days, 350 conference attendees and 500 career fair participants from around the country descended upon the tech capital of the world — San Francisco — to “explore innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.”

Hosted at Galvanize, Tech Inclusion was quite the sight to be seen.

And here’s why…

1. Every single panel was filled with a diverse group of innovators and leaders, representing a variety of races, genders, sexual orientations, age groups, and abilities.

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2. They had sign language interpreters on stage at all times.

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3. They had an artist on hand to create “instant infographics,” making it easy for attendees to understand the main points being shared.

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4. They were proactive in promoting the “why” of the conference, even in the decor.

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5. They made sure to include the youth voice in the discussion.

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6. They created gender-neutral bathrooms.

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7. They hosted a job fair in conjunction with the conference, helping attendees and companies make more strategic connections.

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8. Even their swag embodied the mission.

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9. They had a Code of Conduct, and they placed it at the front entrance, making sure everyone saw it as they walked in.

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10. It was co-organized by a mixed gender, mixed race team.

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By all accounts, it was the most inclusive conference I have ever been to.

I also think it’s important to share some key learnings, so that others who are interested in creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces can benefit from the event. So…

Here are my top 6 takeaways.

  1. Diversity doesn’t just mean black, brown, yellow, and white, nor just men and women. Other areas of difference must be considered too, such as age, ability, and sexuality, in order to create a truly inclusive workplace.
  2. People in power positions (C-suite, hiring managers, HR, etc.) must be at the table to learn about unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. Not just diversity directors, unhappy employees, or those who have unsuccessfully tried to “break into” tech.
  3. Looking for those who are a “culture fit” is often times more excluding and discriminatory than you think. Consider throwing that term out of your vocabulary and hiring process.
  4. We all have biases. Be aware of yours and how it may be affecting your interpretation of people and their qualifications/abilities.
  5. Rather than tech companies trying to figure out diversity/inclusion issues in silos, they should unite to leverage each others’ learnings and best practices.
  6. Change won’t happen overnight, but it will happen if you commit to educating and enlightening others, and taking action in your individual workplaces and communities.

I hope this was insightful, and for anyone else who was present for the conference, please do contribute your biggest takeaways in the comments section below. There was a wealth of knowledge shared over the past two days, and I know I didn’t capture it all, so I’d appreciate you filling in the gaps I left.

Lastly, be sure to check out #TechInclusion15 for additional insights on what happened at the event. But from the reaction on Twitter alone (it was in the Top 6 trending topics in the U.S. this weekend), I’m sure you’ll be seeing this conference again.

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