by Kathleen Lassiter
On Wednesday, April 18th, approximately 350 attendees convened inside The Ace Hotel in Pittsburgh, USA to participate in a very important conversation for entrepreneurs, engineers, and anyone looking to get ahead in the world of technology-driven businesses. During a year where diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of international dialogues across all industries, it seemed appropriate and even necessary for IEEE Entrepreneurship to lead an open discussion on the matter, with a special focus on the perspectives of multiple engineering-driven entrepreneurs. That’s why, in conjunction with the AlphaLab Gear International Hardware Cup, IEEE Entrepreneurship called the open forum “A Discussion on Culture, Diversity, Inclusion & Successful Scaling within the Startup Environment.”
The evening began with Kelly Hoey, serial entrepreneur and author of “Build Your Dream Network,” introducing the topic and speaking to the power of surrounding yourself with a group of professional connections from varying cultural and social backgrounds. “Your ideas, without a network, don’t go anywhere. Inspiration comes from having a diverse network,” she said.
Judith M. Williams, founder of Magic Deer Consulting and former Global Head of Diversity at Dropbox, spoke to this concept in more detail. During her keynote, “Building For Inclusion,” she discussed how startup founders can create a space within their company that includes people in marginalized groups, such as women, racial minorities, and more. She also discussed how to establish a culture at a startup that not only promotes diversity, but also makes people who identify as underrepresented feel like they have a seat at the table, so to speak. According to Judith, the best way to do this is to compile data directly from your employees and study that data to find pain points and discover solutions. “Data helps you realize where the problems are,” she said.
Following Judith’s keynote was a fireside chat about the subject, featuring Kelly, Judith, and two other speakers: Dillan DiGiovanni, an integrated health coach, and Alicia Varughese, the executive associate at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. Both Dillan and Alicia had enlightening comments on the subject at hand, and the conversation ranged from leveraging personal privilege in the professional world to taking advantage of mentorship opportunities as a member of a marginalized community, especially among gender and intersectional minorities.
The group of speakers also discussed a recent IEEE survey, which you can access here, that shed light on women’s experiences across the globe in the tech workplace. According to that report, an overwhelming number of women in tech felt that they had experienced discrimination of some kind in the workplace. The speakers explored solutions to the growing issue. Some of the suggested solutions included increasing mentorship among women in venture capital and tech entrepreneurship, offering more opportunities that are inclusive for women through conferences, scholarships and travel grants, and generally raising awareness of discriminatory practices.
By looking closely at the reasons why discrimination exists in tech, as well as discussing what we as engineering-driven entrepreneurs can do to fix these problems in our own workplaces, the IEEE N3XT® Keynotes provided a space where problems were discussed and analyzed, and where steps may be taken to provide a lasting solution in the coming years.
If you’d like to watch the keynotes in their entirety, visit IEEE.tv here.