Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

On May 23rd, I attended a panel on cultivating diversity and inclusion in tech. This event was hosted by Women4Good, a San Francisco-based group that hosts volunteer and speaker events focused on social impact. The women who attend their events come from various backgrounds (nonprofit/startup/corporations), and are all interested in making a social impact. I attended Women4Good’s previous panel featuring women founders and leaders in the social-impact sector. I found that panel to be extremely informative and inspiring, and knew I had to attend this one.

I have found that panels are a great way to casually become more familiar with a certain topic. Panelists are usually specifically invited because they carry a lot of expertise or experience in a certain topic, and are able to share a lot of wisdom. This topic of diversity and inclusion was of particular interest to me, so after work I took the trek from South Bay to San Francisco via Cal Train. The event was hosted at Cambria Gallery.

There was some time in the beginning and end of event to mingle and talk to other attendees. The panelists of this event were Laurie Sellick of Affirm, Roojuta Lalalani of Salesforce, Allie Leite of Lyft, Mia White of Zendesk, and Joann Tseng of Airbnb. These ladies are all leaders (some co-founders) of a women-focused ERG at their company.

To be honest, I did not know what an ERG was before this event. ERG stands for “Employee Resource Group.” They are employee-led groups that are focused on fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace by hosting various events and workshops geared towards underrepresented groups. Women-focused ERG’s become especially beneficial in tech where women tend to be the minority. Joanne of AirBnB discussed how her ERG hosts workshops for career-development on topics such as negotiation, and self-advocacy. I found it awesome that her group strategically times these workshops before review cycles so that women can into these discussions well-prepared. Roojuta of Salesforce discussed how when she first joined Salesforce, she noticed that there were no women in leadership positions, nor women architects. She decided to start a women ERG, and became an advocate for programs to help women become leaders. Through these efforts, there’s been an increase in the number of women in leadership positions at Salesforce. Other panelists discussed hosting events on financial literacy, mind-body wellness, and hosting intimate sessions during times of distress.

The panelists also went into an interesting discussion about the importance of having allies in the company– especially in leadership positions. Laurie of Affirm shared her positive experience of having the close support of the CEO.

Thank you Women4Good for hosting another wonderful event. Especially when it comes to the tech industry, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality. It was inspiring for me to hear from these smart, powerful women, and the work they are doing to advocate for women in their company.