(NOTE: A complimentary pass was provided for purposes of review. My opinions are my own).
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend Tech Inclusion Chicago, a conference held at 1871 focusing on diversity in the technology workplace Part of Tech Month Chicago, Tech Inclusion Chicago provided insights, knowledge, and individuals bringing real-world insights into the tech field. Looking at this blog in the past month, with posts focused on possible ageism and cult-like behavior at one well-known startup, sexism at Google, and efforts to engage women in application and software development, attending Tech Inclusion Chicago felt like a great opportunity to expand my own awareness and possibly gain insight.
And Tech Inclusion Chicago did not disappoint – I have pages of notes from the conference. However, rather than write a thorough summary of the event from start to finish, I will write a series of key insights and bullet points. If you’re looking for a thorough recap of what happened at Tech Inclusion Chicago, this is not the post for you….but I hope to encapsulate what was so remarkable about Tech Inclusion Chicago.
- Tom Alexander, COO of 1871, started Tech Inclusion Chicago with some remarks about how 1871 is “baking in” diversity and inclusion within its mission. One of the key aspects he cited was the discovery that when the tech facility performed a demographic breakdown of their mentor pool, they found that it consisted predominantly of men. After a crowdsourcing initiative to introduce gender parity into 1871’s mentor pool, the number of women mentors increased by 30%, and now 53 – 54% of 1871’s mentor pool consists of women.
- Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton of ChangeCatalyst spoke of how their efforts to run workshops around inclusion in the tech field changed after the recent election. With a great focus on safety and security, they realized that they needed to drive the conversation in “middle America”, reaching out of their comfort zone.
- One of the key insights from the State of Diversity in the Tech Ecosystem Panel is that, despite the need for further growth, inclusion in technology is happening in cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Detroit. However, with 40% of women leaving tech jobs and over one-third of people with disabilities leaving the tech field, much work still needs to be done.
- Tracy Powell, Senior Advisor to Blue1647, discussed how the Pilsen-based technology innovation center is organically driving greater inclusion in the tech field. By adopting a philosophy that fosters – rather than imposes – inclusion, Blue1647 not only drives digital excellence but also allows for more creative and innovative solutions.
- One of the key insights from the Creating an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem in Chicago panel was the need for inclusion on every level – from recruiting to partnerships. It also means moving out of comfort zones, since for many Chicago companies, the attitude that “Everything I need is right here” has meant a reluctance to move outside neighborhood borders (making a trek from the north side to the south side of the city). If there are two phrases that should drive an overall philosophy of inclusion, they are “Diversity is a collective responsibility” and #notqualifiedfortech – both of these demonstrate a need to bring in different, diverse viewpoints for driving inclusion in tech.
- In one of several smaller presentations, Jon Young of Code Platoon discussed the benefits of hiring veterans for technology jobs. Citing the 80% employment rate of their recent cohort, Young discussed how their experience, maturity, and skill sets make veterans ideal in a field where the emphasis is hiring younger workers.
- Through several smaller slogans, Melanie Adcock of Tech Scene Chicago emphasized the need for greater empathy and understanding in the workplace, making the point that fair treatment in the workplace is a human rights issue.
- Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games focused on the need for greater inclusion in the gaming industry, where money is left on the table because of a lack of representation. Games are a powerful medium, and with white males driving both the development and the in-game storylines, there is a great opportunity to drive creativity, relatability….and profits.
Tech Inclusion Chicago provided a great number of insights, thoughts, and potential action items for the tech industry. Although this was the first time this conference was held specifically in Chicago, it is my hope that Tech Inclusion Chicago is held next year….with some better results.
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And as always, thanks for reading!