Hacking Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

[TechConneXt Summit] Hacking Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

(Image: Black Enterprise)
(Image: Black Enterprise)

Tapping into the experience of professionals that represent a range of businesses and business sectors, yesterday’s Diversity in Silicon Valley panel asked pertinent questions and offered some specific, actionable answers.

[Related: [TechConneXt Summit] Test, Test, Test Your Way to Tech Startup Success]

Expertly moderated by Belinda Grant-Anderson, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at AT&T, the panel explored Silicon Valley’s lack of diversity, and offered explicit actions that hold promise of leading toward full inclusion.

Panelists Michael DeAngelo, head of people at Pinterest; Mark Mathewson, vice president, Capital One Techy, at Capital One; Kate Mitchell, co-founder and partner of Scale Venture Partners and Diversity Task Force and co-chair of the National Venture Capital Association; and Frank A. Sanders, vice president of Technology and Manufacturing Group and director of Corporate Strategic Procurement at Intel each offered insight, best practices, stubborn challenges, and options for making connections and fostering collaboration among groups attempting to address this issue.

Some actionable ideas the entities represented are exercising:

  • Use your influence over supply chains–yours and that of other companies.
  • Invest earlier in the pipeline–at the high school level or younger.
  • Provide unconscious bias training to your employees.
  • Develop career entryways such as ambassadorship programs.
  • Develop relationships with other organizations that are working to increase diversity in tech.
  • Sponsor hackathons and do diverse campus recruiting.
  • Attend conferences (like the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit) that address this issue.

Two sobering (anecdotal) statistics: 5% of investors are women; half that are people of color.

Even Intel, although it has ambitiously and publicly committed to increasing the diversity of its hiring and supply chain, confronts real challenges, such as finding minority-owned companies that can support the scale of the tech giant’s business. One way that Intel thinks it can effect change is through “influence management.” That is, by exerting its influence on the supply chain–its own and, because of its size, those of other companies. Intel is also investing earlier in the pipeline–at the high school level–by investing in school systems, such as Oakland Unified.

Pinterest’s DeAngelo described specific actions Pinterest has taken: providing unconscious bias training for everyone in the company, which one attendee said was “huge,” and providing a nine-month ambassadorship at the end of which it is possible to get hired.

Committing to working with organizations that are already working toward preparing a pipeline was another area of focus. Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners stressed the need to connect with organizations in the Bay Area, such as the Greene Scholars Program, which provides youth in third grade to 12th grade with STEM enrichment–students in its program graduate from college at a rate of 100%; the Alliance for Community Development, which explores opportunities in tech entrepreneurship for women and minorities; and the Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when possibilities for effective partnership already exist. Notably, Greene Scholars was initially funded by Intel 17 years ago.

For more about the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit, go to http://www.blackenterprise.com/events/techconnext/.