This past week EmployDiversity attended The PUSH Tech 2020 Summit, hosted by the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Pastor Joseph Bryant. Reverend Jackson is the Founder and President of the Rainbow Push Coalition. Pastor Bryant is Co-Director of PUSH Tech 2020. They organized the summit to discuss and find plausible solutions to the extreme lack of diversity in the Tech industry — more specifically in the capital of the Tech world, Silicon Valley.
The summit began with a question and answer session with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, moderated by Brian Tippens, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. When asked about the intersection of the civil rights movement and the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, the Revered said, “If you go from picking cotton balls to picking up basketballs, and not grow into management, nothing has fundamentally changed”.
Leveling the Playing Field
Reverend Jackson also went on to explain how there is nothing inherently different between a child who grows up in India or China and a child from Oakland, which some think genetically predisposes them to a career in Tech. Instead, he offered, their parents or other influential adults in their lives make the tools and skills available to ready children for opportunities in Tech.
Jackson’s idea was that children in cities like Oakland can and should be taught skills like coding at an early age, instead of handing them a ball and expecting them to be among the 1% who make it to the professional level. A young man by the name of Olatunde Sobomehin had that very sentiment and did something about it.
Sobomehin is the founder and CEO of Streetcode, an academy that provides “access to high-tech training for youth and young adults in communities of color, and consequently, a diversity deficit in the technology industry”. Their mission to is “equip a generation of underrepresented leaders with the skills to hack, hustle and design the future.” Companies such as Streetcode are an essential factor in tackling the diversity issues in tech. There must be a collaborative effort to expand the opportunities presented to youth in the inner cities, especially in Silicon Valley.
The panel discussions included some of the major companies in the area, including the chief diversity officers of Ebay, Uber, Pinterest, Google, Air BnB, Salesforce and Oracle, as well as a partner of Project Include and CEO of Atipica, Laura Gomez. They discussed different issues they have faced at their respective companies, as well as what has gone well for them.
The first panel included Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Pinterest, Damien Hooper-Campbell, VP and Chief Diversity Officer of Ebay; Candice Morgan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Pinterest; and Bernard Coleman Global, Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Uber.
Morgan commented that when she assumed her position, strategic goal-setting contributed to their efforts to increase diversity at Pinterest. Their goal was to grow an abysmal hiring rate one-percent for Black and Latino engineering hires to a more presentable eight-percent. They achieved their goal within a year.
Hooper-Campbell talked about having REAL conversations instead of “B.S.” surface level conversations about real issues that are going on in the workplace and beyond. Conversations that most would see as “uncomfortable” are the only way we are going to proceed, according to Hooper-Campbell.
Coleman of Uber, while new to his position as Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, spoke about moving the conversation beyond the recognition of one’s unconscious biases. He recognized that the topic of unconscious biases has been a hot button issue within the diversity and inclusion world. He suggested that we need to find a way to move beyond that conversation and adopt more of a view from a ‘positive psychology’ perspective.
Laura Gomez, Founder and CEO of Atipica, spoke during the second panel discussion. She most captured this writer’s attention. Gomez is also a founding member of Project Include, along with Ellen Pao. Gomez began working as an intern at the age of 17 at HP.
Gomez came to this country from Mexico with her parents. She was undocumented for most of her life. Her mission is to “break the stereotype of what an undocumented immigrant looks like”. Her personal story is an inspiration. She is a role model for many young Hispanic women in the tech world and beyond.
EmployDiversity considered the conference, while informative, a watered-down version of what it had been the year before. We are unclear, however, whether the weaker format was due to the climate of monoculturalism the current administration in Washington is promoting, or because companies are pausing in their diversity interests to see how the winds of political correctness blow, or because the conference was simply not as well endowed as the previous year.
Or perhaps all or any combination of the above reasons.
Nevertheless, events like this, and big names like Reverend Jesse Jackson do facilitate resolution of diversity issues in Tech.