Confronting the Tech Diversity Issue by Getting out of the Office
Written by Darci Moore (HR Generalist)
I met Nep Orshiso at the Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco this past Friday, September 11th. He was born in Africa and grew up in the Midwest. "Silicon Prairie" he called it. He graduated from a small college in Missouri a year ago, and is now the co-founder of a company he started with a couple of college friends. His company is made up of three founders, who are all men.
Two women recently expressed interest in working for his company, and he's really excited about this. "Women are going to think differently than me. That's a good thing for my business. I want to get that part right as early as possible." The conference hadn't started yet and I was already inspired. Here's a very young entrepreneur; still working out how to run a company, and already he's identified diversity as a top priority. He's setting the foundation for a culture of inclusion.
The conference focused on diversity and inclusion in the technology field. I learned there's a difference between diversity and inclusion. A diverse workforce includes people of all diverse backgrounds. An inclusive environment makes these people we worked so hard to recruit, want to stay. I also learned I'm part of the problem.
I'm ashamed to say that I've heard people talk about the lack of diversity in tech jobs, and thought, 'Aren't we kind of past this? We live in the Bay Area. It's a pretty diverse and open-minded kind of place. Sure we have more men than women at our tech offices, and very few African-Americans and Hispanics... but it's not like a qualified candidate from any of those groups wouldn't get a job at Delphix.' But as one of the speakers explained, unless I acknowledge there's an issue, I can't help solve it.
The playing field is not level. Under-represented groups face hurdles that those in the majority never had toface. Unconscious biases exist. There are many reasons our office is not more diverse. And because of it, we're all missing out. I need to work harder to help break down the barriers, and our company will be more successful as a result.
So what can we all do to create more diverse and inclusive workplaces? That's the question the speakers and attendees of the "Tech Inclusion Conference" were all trying to answer. My big takeaway... I won't find all the answers by brainstorming with my colleagues or attending conferences like these. If I want to make a difference, I need to get out of my office and into my community. I need to mentor kids who will grow up to become the diverse engineers, sales leaders, and executives every company wants to hire.
I need to learn about people from different backgrounds by talking with them, and most importantly, listening to them. That way when I'm working next to them, I'm an ally. I understand what they need to thrive at Delphix. I'm building a culture of inclusion. We each have our own privileges and our own challenges. I think everyone feels different in some way. I work with a lot of brilliant people, and many of them come from a family of engineers, doctors, and professors.
Neither of my parents graduated from college. They both worked jobs that didn't pay a lot. This conference reminded me why we should all strive to be humble and aware. We should also celebrate and acknowledge our differences, and take responsibility for educating ourselves about other people's differences. I plan to mentor in my community, make connections, have tough conversations, and, like my new friend from Missouri, make diversity and inclusion a priority.