Walking in, I felt right away how diverse the conference attendants are. Being surrounded by all these people before even attending a session filled me with joy. As a woman in tech, most of the conferences that I attend (with the exception of GHC) are comprised mostly of men, and even among the men, there is not much diversity. This does mean that I stand out, which can be an advantage sometimes, (plus there is this "amazing perk" of no line in the women's restroom!) but at the same time, I feel like an outsider.
I left the conference inspired by all of the organizations and individuals who dedicate themselves to bringing diversity and inclusion into tech, and it made me want to be part of that change. It also became clearer to me that diversity and inclusion in tech is not just about inclusion in the workplace; it is also about for whom the products are created. Reddit, for example, spoke about how they’ve been working on making Reddit software available to non-tech savvy people and having content that represents a wide range of the population.
There was also a conversation about how recruiting diverse people is not enough; they also need to be retained. A recent study found that workplace culture drives turnover, significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups, and costing the industry more than $16 billion each year. I myself am one of those “tech leavers.” In my case, the main reason I left was not having enough work-life balance and flexibility available, and I am not alone.
On a more positive note, I was inspired by Muna Hussaini of PayPal, who spoke on one of the panels. She spoke about a great initiative she led at her company, partnered with PathForward.org, called Recharge, which is a program for women who took a break from their careers for personal/family reasons and want to return to the workforce.
A fun, interesting workshop that I attended was the Moonshot Factory Card Game by X. The game helps you think creatively and is also a good ice breaker when meeting a new group of people.
- Irit Seligman