In late September, Beyond the Code and Shopify hosted a one-day conference in Toronto about diversity and technology. The event brought together engineers, technologists, and marketers to learn how to make technology more inclusive. A roster of nearly all women speakers shared stories and solutions from experiences with companies including tech giants Google and Slack, to seed capital firm Real Ventures and Assembly of 7 Nations, a not-for-profit that helps indigenous young people become leaders of change in their communities through technology.
YouInc attended the conference and rounded up 15 key insights:
On Creating Diversity in Technology
When diversity is discussed in technology, the major conversation often surrounds a greater need for gender diversification. Each speaker made it very clear that diversification is not limited to gender, rather it includes everything from race and nationality to personality and perspective. The diversity conversation started with a main stage presentation from Slack Engineer Erica Baker who discussed the challenges for women of colour in the workplace including unequal pay and solutions including getting women into the room. The key outcome from speakers? Bring diversity to every meeting to create lasting change.
“Diversity isn't just about gender, it's about personality and perspective.”
“Just because you have a diversity program doesn’t mean you're respecting needs or are asking hard questions.” @JamieChung of Dropbox
"If only dudes are developing software, they are solving problems only dudes have." @sabrinageremia of Google
“If you’re going to build a product for everyone, you need to have a team that represents everyone.” @Ramya of Google
"Change happens when we work at the systematic level, but also when we value diversity at the decision table." @atleeclark of Shopify
"It might cost your company a little bit more to pay women what they're worth, but it's worth it." @EricaJoy of Slack
On Leadership and Career Growth
It’s no secret that leadership for women in technology is a continuing struggle. In fact, only 18 percent of computer science grads in the U.S. are women. Kijiji Canada Founder and Real Ventures General Partner Janet Bannister was a voice for this reality, as a woman that makes up seven per cent of partners at top venture capital firms. Bannister’s advice to participants was loud and clear, be more confident and follow your heart. Speakers like Author Sandi Metz shared a similar sentiment encouraging participants to make choices that will create a brighter future for women in technology.
“Everybody is different, but generally speaking, men set the bar super high and are aggressive about their growth projections and think, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’ll figure it out.’ Women go in and pitch much lower growth projections, with the thought, ‘I want to make sure I hit these projections.’” @jebannister of Real Ventures
"I believe great decisions come from gathering and valuing diverse perspectives." @atleeclark of Shopify
“The lesson there for me was learning how to mentor and work with female entrepreneurs to help ensure their success.”
“Make big decisions with your heart and small decisions with your head.” @jebannister of Real Ventures
On How We Use Technology and Empower Girls to Code
There’s a huge global movement around the world to increase opportunities for girls in technology and Sabrina Geremia with Google Canada spoke about a program she leads, Made with Code, that works to empower young women to learn computer programming skills. An unexpected focus of the conference came from Gabrielle Fayant of Assembly of 7 Nations, who brought attendees back to the basics; she reminded the people tweeting in the room that technology is there to help us but shouldn’t consume our work.
"Only 1% of high school girls in the U.S. are considering studying computer science."
“On finding D&I solutions: Do the work, don't have someone do it for you.” @lateeshathomas of Dev Bootcamp
"Encourage, teach, and change perceptions. Be an influencer and encourage a girl in your life to code.” @sabrinageremia of Google
“Change career perception. Expose students to the possibilities of tech-related jobs. If you can see it, you can be it.” @sabrinageremia of Google
“Use technology to improve you, not consume you.” @GabrielleFayant of Assembly of 7 Nations
For more information about Beyond the Code visit http://beyondthecode.io/.
What makes you excited about diversity and technology? Share your thoughts in the comments below.