On June 25, sf.citi hosted a virtual conversation about racial equity within the tech industry at Scaling Social Impact in a Remote World. The goal of the evening was to understand how tech leaders can rethink their social impact strategies to prioritize racial equity and engage employees across a workforce that, due to COVID-19, has become increasingly remote.
Leading the discussion were Dalana Brand, Vice President of People Experience and Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Twitter, Julie Wenah, Community Counsel and Acting Regional Counsel for Africa at Airbnb, and Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE.
CREATING INCLUSIVE TECH COMPANIES AND PRODUCTS
We first heard from Dalana Brand in conversation with Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director of Larkin Street Youth Services. Brand described how Twitter’s inclusion and diversity work are guided by the rallying cry: #UntilWeAllBelong. And while her Inclusion and Diversity team drives many of the programs addressing racism, remediation, and reconciliation, Brand emphasized that she works with diversity champions across the company. This kind of collaboration and “collective effort” is critical, she said, for producing meaningful outcomes.
In order for an organization to truly be successful at [inclusion and diversity], it has to be embedded in every fabric of the organization—from the culture, to the systems, to the processes, programs, policies, and tools.
—Dalana Brand, Vice President People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity, Twitter
Brand also explained that Twitter had been working toward decentralization and remote work since 2018—long before COVID-19. Part of that decision, she said, was to gain access to more diverse talent pools. As such, Twitter already had a lot of infrastructure in place to support its remote workforce, all while continuing to cultivate allyship among its employees. The most important thing, emphasized Brand, is to ensure you have dedicated anti-racism programs and conversations—whether they happen online or in person.
Julie Wenah of Airbnb then took the virtual stage with Lisa Countryman, CEO of JVS. Wenah ran us through a number of products and policies Airbnb has launched over the years to address and reduce racism on its platform. The most recent of these is Project Lighthouse, an initiative developed in partnership with Color of Change to uncover, measure, and overcome discrimination throughout the booking process.
Wenah also shared three pieces of advice for companies looking to promote equity within their product and policy development process:
- Think about who is around the table. Make sure people implicated by the product or policy—especially from marginalized communities—are represented during its development.
- Embed people into the process. One meaningful way to do this, said Wenah, is by having managers and executives empower those below them to lead on issues.
- Consult outside partners. “You’re not going to be the expert on everything,” cautioned Wenah. That is why it’s critical to bring in outside experts.
Find more details about Twitter and Airbnb’s approach to racial equity by reading our overview published in 366 Technology.
DIVERSIFYING THE TECH TALENT PIPELINE
A recent report conducted by San Jose State University found that 10 of Silicon Valley’s largest tech companies do not employ a single Black woman. Three major tech companies in Silicon Valley have no Black employees at all. Tech’s leadership and wealth, the study reveals, remain largely skewed toward white men.
Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO of nonprofit Black Girls CODE, is on a mission to change that. Talking to sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic, she said that the tech companies are unlikely to become more hospitable toward a diverse workforce until they have diverse leaders at their helm. There need to be more women and women of color in positions of authority across all industries, elaborated Bryant, before we see cultural change around gender and racial equity. This is also the premise behind her work at Black Girls CODE, which creates pathways for girls of color to learn programming and ultimately work in tech.
It’s not logical that you would address issues external to your company and not turn a mirror in and systemically look at how you impact those same issues in your industry and within your company.
—Kimberly Bryant, Founder and CEO, Black Girls CODE
Bryant described a few things people can do to promote racial equity. “If you can’t give up your time,” she said, “Give up your resources and your dollars. Give up your expertise to others so that you can mentor someone.” She pointed out that racial equity and social justice are a cornerstone of Black Girls CODE: “We couldn’t do our work if we weren’t informed about those issues that impact our community.”
SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS THAT CHAMPION RACIAL EQUITY
At the end of our conversation, sf.citi Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic asked our three speakers which Bay Area nonprofits they suggest supporting to advance racial equity. Below are the organizations they recommend:
sf.citi also authored a blog listing three actions tech workers can take right now to promote racial equity in and outside of their companies. We look forward to seeing the tech community continue to use its trademark ingenuity and innovation to build a more inclusive and equitable industry and workforce.