Prioritizing Communities of Color and the Tech Economy

Turning Positive Intent into Real Action

Sergio Rosas
Aug 5 · 6 min read

My colleagues and I at the Kapor Center work on initiatives that make the tech ecosystem more inclusive of underrepresented people of color. Many of us have attended SXSW in the past to learn how others are thinking about these issues. While we’ve been able to find some sessions addressing communities of color in tech, many of us walked away with sentiments similar to those expressed by my colleague, Meghna, in her 2019 SXSW recap. In short, we wanted to hear more.

At the Kapor Center, one of our values is “We Don’t Just Talk. Positive Intent Must Lead to Positive Action.” With this in mind, my colleagues and I engaged partners to put together six panels for SXSW that elevate conversations about underrepresented communities of color throughout the tech ecosystem.

Please vote and help get these topics to SXSW!

Can a Reparations Model Break Barriers to Tech?

Although nobody currently living is responsible for America’s history of slavery, societal inequities established under this race-based system persist today. Enslaved people who were the labor source behind the early U.S. cotton economy received no legal rights as humans and were denied access to education and economic opportunities. The sins of slavery have caused and perpetuated structural barriers that continue to affect descendants of the enslaved. As society is driven by a tech economy that struggles with structural barriers to diversity, is now the time to study and propose reparation models? We will discuss how reparations models grounded in education and entrepreneurship may address barriers to tech and wealth-building opportunities that are out of reach to many African Americans.

Speakers:

Cynthia Overton, Ph.D. | Director of Tech Workplace Initiatives |Kapor Center

Ivory Toldson, Ph.D. | President | Quality Education for Minorities Network

Angela Rye, JD | CEO & Principal | IMPACT Strategies

Danny Allen, MBA | Vice President, Strategic Partnerships in Global D&I | SAP

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

Unlikely Coalitions Recoding the Tech Economy

The tech sector catalyzes new wealth, jobs, and solutions to pressing problems. At the same time, we find ourselves living in times where unequal access to tech opportunities for people of color widens economic inequity for generations to come. The barriers that leave people of color out of the tech economy also require strategic doers, optimistic collaborators, and radical visionaries to transform the system that produces the next generation of tech talent and entrepreneurs. This panel brings together leaders from unlikely coalitions in cities across the U.S. who are rebuilding the tech economy to be more inclusive from the ground up.

Speakers:

Sergio Rosas | Program Lead, Tech Done Right Challenge | Kapor Center

Lindsey Heisser | Director, L.A. Tech Talent Pipeline | Bixel Exchange

Joey Womack | Founder & CEO | Goodie Nation

Raymar Hampshire | Founding Partner | Generation Titans

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

Opportunity Zones as Inclusive Tech Ecosystems

A lot of hype and uncertainty still surrounds a new federal tax break that defers taxes on realized capital gains. However, a few unlikely cities are preparing to turn that hype into real opportunity by leveraging the tech sector as a critical lever through an intentional and intersectional focus. Opportunity Zones provide a chance to build an inclusive economy for local communities that exist outside of well-known technology hubs — such as Fresno, Kansas City, and Oakland — if done right. This panel explores strategic investments centered on startups and tech talent ecosystem development led by, with, and for people of color. Community investments that increase inclusion, equity and opportunity for underrepresented people of color require intentional focus and stakeholder accountability.

Speakers:

Lili Gangas | Chief Technology Community Officer | Kapor Center

Irma Olguin | CEO & Co-Founder | Bitwise Industries

Rodney Sampson | Executive Chairman & CEO | Opportunity Hub

Jose Corona | Director of Equity & Strategic Partnerships | City of Oakland

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

Beyond Hiring: Retention as Tech Inclusion North Star

Nurturing talent is a crucial strategy for retention. In the last few years, tech companies have made commitments to diversify their teams through a variety of external and internal work-based initiatives. However, it is not enough to hire or apprentice people of color if the company culture is not set up to support and retain this talent. Nor does this make economic sense as it is estimated to be a $16Billion problem according to Kapor Center’s 2017 national study on tech workers leaving the industry. A holistic approach is needed to coach companies not only on diverse hiring but also on creating an inclusive and intersectional culture. This panel brings together thoughtful and intentional leaders who are building an intersectional culture in different roles throughout the tech ecosystem.

Speakers:

Kirsten Lundgren | Director | TechHire Oakland

Josh Torres | Latinx Tech Program Manager | Kapor Center

Aubrey Blanche | Global Head of Diversity & Belonging | Atlassian

Dominique Hollins | Co-Founder, Our Collective / Senior Manager, Marketplace Diversity, eBay

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

Latinx Level Up: Owning Our Narrative

As of July 1, 2017, per Census data, the Latinx community is the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority and growing. This data point isn’t surprising considering 58.9 Million Latinx make up 18.1% of the US population — and growing. Latinx have a purchasing power of $1.7 Trillion and are fueling the marketplace. As creators, Latinx have the highest net new business growth demographics compared to all other groups. Moreover, as consumers AND creators, the Latinx community is an integral part of the future of work and innovation economy. However, why don’t we see this narrative told more in mainstream outlets? This panel showcases grassroots leaders and entrepreneurs who are owning and creating this new narrative.

Speakers:

Lili Gangas | Chief Technology Community Officer | Kapor Center

Josh Torres | Latinx Tech Program Manager | Kapor Center

Beatriz Acevedo | President | Acevedo Foundation

Masha Chernyak | Vice President, Programs & Policy | Latino Community Foundation

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

Tech Creatives: Future of the Innovation Economy

The future of a thriving innovation economy is not merely dependent on coders, but rather intersectional cultural creators. Many of the current technology occupations will eventually be automated, but creatives will not. Creativity has always fueled breakthrough innovative products, driving the economy forward. Historically, Black and Brown creatives have led mainstream American culture through music, social media, and technology. Still, rarely do these creatives receive attribution for their creative, cultural, and innovative productions. These cultural and technological creatives are looking to change the status quo by using their lived experiences and perspectives to build tech innovations that are changing the face of tech.

Speakers:

Meghna Mahadevan | Senior Community Engagement Associate | Kapor Center

Evangeline Elder | Founder | Women Sound Off

Olivia Cueva | Director | David E. Glover Emerging Technology Center

Kai Fraizer | Founder | Curated x Kai

Click here to VOTE for Our Panel Idea!
SXSW Community Voting: August 5–23

The Bridge

Conversations at the intersection of tech, diversity, and entrepreneurship

Sergio Rosas

Written by

Program Lead @KaporCenter | social entrepreneur, aspiring techie | Economic opportunity, #FoW, #inclusion | Co-Founder of PeopleMap| #FirstGen 2X @Stanford alum

The Bridge

Conversations at the intersection of tech, diversity, and entrepreneurship

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