Event Recap

Event Recap: Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in Tech

Aug 20
Sep 1
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in Tech

Aug 20
Sep 1
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in Tech

Aug 20
Sep 1
Alley Team
Event Recap: Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in TechEvent Recap: Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in Tech

Historically speaking, the tech industry hasn’t been the most representative—for an industry built on forward thinking, there are still some areas where they fall short. Technology becomes more accessible when leadership is representative of the end users; AKA we need more diversity in the rooms where decisions are made.

In order for technology to add value for end users, it needs to be built by people who mirror their experiences, identities and perspectives.

In this panel, we cover matters of accessibility, gaps in representation, lack of opportunity for marginalized groups, unconscious biases, and how all of those things have an impact on the technology we use today.

Each of our panelists will dive into their strategies for dismantling biases in tech, adding more seats to the leadership table, and paving the way for the next generation to build technology through a more accessible lens.

Verizon 5G Labs:

Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.

Mentioned Resources:

List of organizations for diverse recruiting via SAY Yang:

  1. Partnering w/ organizations like Black Girls Code is a great step for all companies to take to help invest in diversifying the pipeline for the long term.
  2. Microquest is a diversity consulting firm that develops strategies and execution plans to improve diversity representation and inclusion with solutions like Talent Mapping, Online Database, and Special Reports.
  3. Jopwell can assist in diversifying your applicant pipeline and market your company as an employer of choice.
  4. YearUp is a great partner to design and implement internship programs to employ and develop early underrepresented minority (URM) talent.
  5. Sponsoring and speaking at events like Afrotech, Lesbians Who Tech, Grace Hopper, Latinas in Tech, and TransTech then recruiting from their attendee lists is a great URM sourcing strategy.
  6. eightfold is a Talent Intelligence platform that removes bias through candidate masking so only skills and qualifications are considered, provides accountability with diversity dashboards & hiring trends, and resurfaces URM candidates from your ATS.
  7. Launching a high-profile diversity referral program is an effective initiative as well. For instance, Intel pays twice as much for URM referrals. Their CEO made it their #1 recruiting priority.
  8. TalVista is a platform that supports more inclusive JDs beyond gender parity. It also employs inclusive language for People of Color and People with Disabilities.

Black Lives Matter micro lesson

More of your questions answered:

Were any of your questions not answered? Let us know at events@alley.com and we will ask the experts!

What do you guys say to colleagues within your organization who say that hiring diverse candidates takes longer because it requires more effort/outreach when we’re all time poor?

The cost of not having diverse teams is even greater than the initial investment you’ll be making in terms of effort and outreach. According to the Cloverpop study I mentioned, more diversity on a team (age + gender + geographic) = better decisions and results. They found:

In short: great minds don’t think alike = collaborating in diverse teams that embrace many perspectives will create innovative products that deeply resonate with customers.

I would like my organization to bring in an external consultant to help us with addressing DEI, because we don’t have that expertise internally yet. But, because we don’t have that expertise, we don’t necessarily know how to go about finding a consultant / organization. Do you have suggestions, either for specific experts or for process?

DEI experts and consultants that known and trusted:

  • - Hello Collective offers diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings and consulting with proven impact to forward-thinking companies.
  • - WĒ360: They are a boutique Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) consulting firm in the business of workplace transformation. Their Founder, Dominique Hollins, specializes in humanizing Diversity in the Modern Workplace.
  • - iRestart: Rajkumari Neogy uniquely merges belonging, collaboration and risk-taking for teams to build trust based on organizational epigenetics.
OUR PANELISTS:
Ram Jean-Louis
Verizon Media
Laraine McKinnon
LMC17
SAY Yang

TRANSCRIPT:

Laraine McKinnon 0:00  
We're delighted to begin today with our event with Alley and 5G. My name is Laraine McKinnon, and I'm a talent and culture strategist working with Emtrain LMC17. And I'm the president of a Women's Leadership nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay Area.

First, I want to thank Alley for helping to build a space that really connects us to have these types of conversations. Alley is a community agency that unites rich and diverse communities around the country, with corporate partners to provide the resources and catalyst to drive positive change in technology and the broader world.

We'd also like to thank our partner, Verizon 5G Labs. They work with startups, academia, and enterprise teams to build a 5G powered world. They work on 5G trials, and on hackathons, industry partnership, and prototyping challenges, and much more. This is one of many events that's put on by Alley, and you can always check for upcoming events at Alley.com.

So we're absolutely delighted to have all of you here today for Inclusion in the Industry- Driving Diversity in Tech. And first off, I'd like to introduce our amazing panel. We have Hannah Olson, founder, and CEO of Chronically Capable. Hi Hannah.

We have SAY Yang, keynote speaker, trainer, employer brand and diversity lead. Goodmorning SAY.

SAY Yang 1:39  
Hello.

Laraine McKinnon  1:40  
And Ram Jean-Louis, Global Head of diversity and inclusion from Verizon Media. Good morning, Ram.

Ram Jean-Louis  1:47  
Hi, good morning.

Laraine McKinnon  1:49  
And I say good morning. I'm based in Silicon Valley. Many of you I'm sure are joining where it's afternoon, so good afternoon, good morning, and thanks all to being here.

We're going to kick it off with the, oh, and I also wanted to mention Felice Shay's. So Felice is our American Sign Language Interpreter today. So thank you very much Felice for being here and for making this a more inclusive experience for all.

We're going to go ahead and start with some of our panels questions. And what we wanted to do is really get to the core of what it is that brought each of you to pursue your current leadership role, and to be out speaking and sort of doing your life's work around promoting diversity and inclusion. And I thought we would start with Ram.

Ram Jean-Louis 2:36  
Fantastic, thank you. Well, first, thank you for including me in this conversation. Happy to be here. Happy to be a part of any conversations that had to do with diversity inclusion. So, you know, I would say what first attracted me to diversity inclusion is really when you take a look at my background, I am the proud son of Haitian immigrants. And growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 70s and 80s it wasn't uncommon that Haitians would get made fun of, bullied, and sometimes experienced physical violence. So there's been times in my life where I haven't experienced inclusion. There's been other times in my life where I have experienced inclusions. I've gone to some really good schools. I've worked at some amazing organizations. I don't have to tell anybody on this line that inclusion is better. It feels better. It empowers you. It gives you confidence. It gives you the ability and the authority to stay on mission and stay focused. So I always like to start with why and that's my personal life. The business-wise that diversity tells us that organizations that are more diverse you have better decision-making, better profitability, and your track towards innovation is significantly higher. So is it the right thing to do? Absolutely, it is but I don't usually lead with that. I lead with all of the benefits and why it makes good sense. It makes good business sense and it's just good all the way around.

Laraine McKinnon  3:52  
That's awesome. Just bring it down to a place where we can all feel it through inclusion and also understand it through some of the data and the ROI. That's great, thank you. SAY, why don't you share with us your thoughts?

SAY Yang  4:06  
Yeah, absolutely. I want to start off also by thanking Alley and Verizon 5G for having us and really bringing up and talking about an extremely important topic right now which is DEI. I do go by They/Them pronouns and I live in Oakland, California, but I'll back up to the beginning. I was born and raised in a very ethnically diverse part of Los Angeles. And then I went into mass communication, minored in Asian American Studies at UC Berkeley. I started a successful Indie film company in LA focused on telling underrepresented minority stories, where we were in five film festivals and won three Pan-Pacific festival awards. But the reason why I got into DEI is a much more personal reason.

When I came out a few years ago a lot of my community wasn't okay with it, and I didn't have a support system. And around that time there was a work event at the company I was at the time called Workday, and it was hosted by The Talented Tenth which is Workday's Black Employee Resource group. And in this session, we discussed our identity and how we can create an environment that honors everyone's identities. And in our small group of six people, I just broke down and shared how I came out, most people weren't okay with it and I didn't have a support system. And my black workmates intimately understood what it was like to be shunned and marginalized simply for being who they are. And they quickly adopted me. They had lunch with me on a regular basis. They became my biggest fan club. Even the chief diversity officer Karen Taylor, she personally became my mentor and really took care of me. And I think because of that I got extremely passionate about DEI. And knowing like work can be a support system for people who are marginalized.

And with sharing a quick synopsis also why I'm so passionate about DEI. I spent about 20 years as both male and female-presenting. And now I help bridge understanding between those seemingly opposing gender identities. And I'm a Christian and I'm a queer person and I also help build a bridge between those seemingly opposing groups. And last but not least, as an Asian American, I help bridge between East and West. So I'm super passionate about building bridges and building connections, and we don't realize how much we do have in common. Like being a part of the Black Employee Resource group that helped me open my eyes to see, wow, we do, we have a lot in common, and we can create community and connection belonging for everyone.

Laraine McKinnon  6:52  
Oh, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing. That, you know, your personal story, your personal journey, and why you're passionate about doing this now. And we do all have more commonalities than differences. I think that's a great theme for us for the rest of the session. Hannah, will you share please?

Hannah Olson  7:10  
Yes, absolutely. So also, I'm very grateful to be here today and really to have a platform to share my story and to share the story of my community. Like the other panelists, I got into this work for a very personal reason. I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease while in college at Boston University. Many people know that Lyme is something that's caused by tick bites, but most people are unaware really of how aggressive the treatment is to combat it, and how hard it is to manage with a full-time job. I personally realized this first after I landed my first job out of school in Washington, DC. And you know like any new hire I was trying to establish myself in the company and working these long hours, but unfortunately, I had the added difficulty of being hooked up to an IV for six to eight hours a day. Not to mention the 30 plus pills I had to take on top of that.

So ultimately, obviously, I got completely burnt out and I had to prioritize my health over the work that I was so passionate about. This was a really defeating time for me because I struggled with, you know, is there a place for people like me in the workforce? Is there a place for people with illness and disability? And for a while, I really thought that there wasn't. But I soon realized I wasn't alone and I sought comfort in the fact that I wasn't alone. There's over 157 million Americans out there like me suffering from chronic illness, and you struggle with the same thing of, the same situation of sacrificing their dreams to have to accommodate their illness. So really, as I discovered the scale of this issue, I became resolved to come up with a solution. I wasn't ready to let my disease dictate my potential at such a young age. So last year, I founded Chronically Capable which is a recruiting platform for folks with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Since February, we've gotten over 15,000 community members. Partnered with companies like WhatsApp and Postmates, and Wikimedia. But for us, really, we are just at the beginning of this journey. I know I'm so young in my career and so excited to take part in these discussions and be part of some much larger issue of diversity and inclusion. But thank you for having me. I'm excited to dive in.

Laraine McKinnon  9:20  
And thank you for your contributions of building a community and helping organizations understand how they can tap the talents of the chronically capable. Let's shift our lens just a little bit to focus in on the tech industry. And what I'd be interested to know is why do you think there's such a lack of diversity in the tech industry? And Ram I'm going to start with you again on this one. You know, it's across gender, and age, and abilities, race. You know, what do you see and what steps have you taken to try to implement change and/or dismantle bias? If you've seen really strong bias Ram what have you done to help dismantle that bias?

Ram Jean-Louis  10:05  
Sure. Thank you for the question. That's a great question. And you've hit it right on the nail. The challenge that you have in tech is that we need to get more women in technology. And we need to get more underrepresented people of color in technology as well. So we already know a part of the equation is that you have to first see yourself in that position doing that type of work. So we're talking about having a multi-tiered strategy in terms of how do we invest in STEM? How do we make sure that we get, you know, kids at an early age in grade school and in middle school interested in technology, interested in coding, excited about math? So at a very early age, we need to really invest. Then you also have workforce ready in population. How do we partner with the right organizations? Partner with the right HBCUs? Partner with the right, you know, companies that could really help you identify right-fit talent to bring into the organization?

So one part of it has to do with, you know, really making sure that people feel comfortable getting into this space and feeling that they will be included. It has to be more than I can just go get a job. Will I be able to sustain it? Will I be happy there? And you touched on, you know, in your question, but in your question, you kind of touched on exactly one of the things that we have to take a look at which is unconscious bias. What role does it play in, in terms of, you know, when we are looking to hire we say that we want to be more diverse. If we're saying that we're going to recruit only from Ivy League schools, you know, what are we saying if we know the diversity is coming out of certain schools is not what we want it to be and it's not reflecting the communities we serve? If we're saying that we're only looking to hire people who've had, you know, 10 plus years experience at, you know, Facebook or Google, what is that also telling us in terms of we know, historically, you know, 10 years ago at Google and Facebook, there wasn't a tremendous amount of diversity. So just being really mindful about, you know, what does inclusion look like in these different areas?

So we do unconscious bias training, but that's just foundational. I really like to focus most of my time on driving conscious inclusion. What do we need to do to drive inclusion across the entire employee lifecycle? What can we do from an attraction perspective, engagement, development, as well as retention? And then more than just what are we doing to attract diverse talent into the organization what are we doing with the diverse talent that's in the organization now? How are we continuing to invest in them? How are we making sure that they are aware that they can grow their careers here within the organization?

Everything I do in the area of diversity inclusion really has to do with data, so I take a look at our demographics. I take a look at where we are. Then I like to do an overlay of our employee engagement survey to see, you know, what type of stories it's telling me. Then I like to take a look at what are our promotion rates? What are our retention rates? Are we finding that people are being promoted at different rates? Or people, you know, being retained or leaving the organization faster? So I look at all of those numbers.

But in addition to, you know, doing that, and sharing that information with our senior leaders, our employees do the same thing. They love data as well. They don't need the fancy dashboards. All they do is they look around the organization and they want to find someone who looks like them in a position higher that they eventually aspire to get into. And if they find that, that's wonderful, that's great. But if they don't see that it doesn't mean that they stop looking. They continue to look, but they begin to look outside the organization. And once that happens, you know, you kind of lose the game. So you really have to make sure that you're driving diversity in the organization, but it can't just be in the front lines, you have to have it across all levels of the organization. And even most importantly, on the senior levels, it's really going to have a really huge impact.

So you know, those are some of the things that we're doing. Going through diversity data. Partnering with the right organizations. Really making sure that we lean in with regards to talent acquisition. Partnering with those organizations and making sure that their relationship goes beyond just a transactional relationship. How do we really embed ourselves in the community, go to their events and really make sure that they're embedded in our community? How can we invite them to our office on multiple occasions for a variety of different things? It can't just be once a year, we'll go to a gala, or we'll go to a conference. How do we really kind of connect with community and find out what are the issues that they are facing? And how can we be a part of the larger solution in terms of, you know, how do we address the digital divide? How do we address the healthcare divide? How do we address the justice divide? So it has to be a holistic approach to diversity inclusion, and a holistic approach to the change that we all seek.

Laraine McKinnon  14:37  
Great, yeah. I love that thought of that continuity. Continuity with the communities that you're getting involved with. Continuity in the data and looking at data on a longitudinal basis, so how are you doing time over time? Continuity of the employee when they first are recruited, and they come to your organization and how you retain them over time. And I do a lot of work in that mid pipeline where we do see a lot of people of color and a lot of women dropping out as they move up the ladder, or they're trying to move up the ladder. So appreciate that work that you're doing.

Hannah, I'd like to shift over to you to answer that question about diversity in tech, and dismantling bias because of something that you said and something that Ram said. Which was how do you even help people see that they could be an employee in an organization? That they could belong in a place? How do you think about that coming from Chronically Capable?

Hannah Olson  15:30  
Yeah, so I, you know, I agree, and I think that the tech industry is dominated by white males. I actually know that because I've seen this firsthand as I'm building a tech startup. I'm a gay female, chronically ill founder. And I'm oftentimes 9 out of 10 I'd say the only female in the room and it's harder to get an investment. And it's a lot harder and I feel I always am hitting a gap and have to work 10 times harder to hit the next stage. And you know there's a lot of stigma around being different in our workplace, I think. And, you know, in my opinion, and I will speak specifically to the community that I represent, a lot of this comes down to a lack of education and lack of awareness. I'm speaking with employers from large tech companies, to small tech companies, to nonprofits every single day. And I really hear the same common sentiment, and it's, they're citing this fear of, you know, the cost of accommodations or, you know, absenteeism, there's so many excuses. And unless you're someone as an employer who has been touched by illness or disability or you yourself has experienced it, it's really hard to understand and get a grasp of what that means. And so I think, you know, a big thing here is communication and education. And from the perspective of someone who is different I'd venture to say that most chronically ill and disabled people, they're struggling to ask for support upfront because there, it's out of fear, right? It's really hard to dig up the courage to share your story, especially, you know, with anyone but especially a potential employer. So I think having open communication is so important here.

So building Chronically Capable really what we were trying to do is to remove the stigma and the fear from the application process. We're absolutely, we're trying to slay the elephant in the room here because there's really this two-sided understanding. You know, we're an employer on this site because we believe our applicants are capable of being future employees. And applicants are on the site because they're looking for employees who care and who can communicate and are investing their dollars in people who are different. And so, that fear really seems to be removed from the process when you know that you're applying to companies that care about your success and are accepting of your differences.

And, you know, to loop back to the question of, you know, how we dismantle bias in our own circles? I think, you know, I'm very open about my experience. It took me a really long time to do that. I'm still getting comfortable with it at times. But I know that my story of what I've been through is relatable to so many people out there. And it's my job, and it's my duty as an advocate and as a leader in the space to continue to share that story and really do encourage others to do the same. Because, you know, it's important, and we need to hear more stories because that education and awareness piece is crucial. I'm that person at the dinner table who might bring up disability inclusion, and I'm not ashamed of it, and I never will be. And I think those types of normal conversations are important, and businesses need to do that every single day.

Laraine McKinnon  18:39  
And individuals, right? People like you, people like all of us who sort of represent ourselves and others more broadly to be more inclusive. That's great. So SAY, I want to ask you that question too about lack of diversity in tech and dismantling bias. But I know, you know,  you have a lot of experience in tech and you've found ways to get seats at that leadership table. So maybe you can go and sort of expand on both what you observe in tech and then your own personal experience in tech.

SAY Yang  19:09  
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with Hannah. As she's observed the higher echelons, there's poor representation, it's mostly a more homogenous, and unfortunately like attracts like. And what people don't realize is that referral programs, if it's not focused on diversity referral programs we tend to hire the same kind of people which is not okay. And also Ram made a great point about investing in the pipeline at an early age and partnering with organization like Black Girls Code is a great step for all companies to take. I come from a talent acquisition background, so I'm going to take a different angle in terms of how do we practically diversify the top of the funnel?

We, what I've seen is that there's a lack of prioritization of proactively sourcing and hiring top URM talent. URM stands for underrepresented minorities if you hear me say that that's what it means. But here are a few relatively low-cost high impact initiatives that I've seen work in terms of increasing diverse representation. In terms of sourcing, there's organizations or firms like Microquest that will actually develop strategies and execution plans to improve diversity and inclusion. They have talent mapping, an online database, and special reports that they can do for specific roles.

I do encourage companies to sponsor and speak at events like AfroTech, Lesbians Who Tech, Grace Hopper, TransTech, and recruiting from their attendee list. And like Ram said, we have to be a regular in different communities. And we can't just show up at the event, but it has to be an ongoing relationship.

Organizations like Jobwell, they help diversify your applicant pipeline and can help market your company as employer of choice [INAUDIBLE] minorities. Europe is a great organization as well, that designs and implements internship programs at your company to employ and develop early underrepresented minority talent. So the good news is that there's a lot of organizations already out there built to help diversify your pipeline.

There's also great tools like Eightfold, it's a talent intelligence platform that will actually go through and resurface your URM candidates in your ATS. As I mentioned, a diversity referral program is great like Intel does that. They pay twice as much for underrepresented minority referrals and their CEO has made it their number one recruiting priority.

And in hiring, I'll give a shout out to Laraine and Emtrain. We do need those unconscious bias trainings for interviewers. We don't realize how much bias go, and all of us have it. So we need to acknowledge it and see it and actively work against those bias when we're doing hiring. And another way we can do that is through structured interview trainings has been proven to be more objective, you have an objective rubric. Having OKRs around hiring goals. And last but not least, like I said earlier like attracts like. So it's important that we embed underrepresented minorities in the key decision-making roles in the hiring process. And I've encouraged like underrepresented minority leaders to meet with high priority URM candidates, so folks will come in can see a career path and internal growth opportunities. And it's hard to see possibilities at a company when people don't look like you. I don't feel comfortable if I go into a company and nobody looks like me I'm going to feel really uncomfortable there. So it's important that we really start like it's all through the, you know, lifecycle of the employees. But, you know, I think it's really important to diversify the top of the funnel and really start getting better representation throughout the company.

Laraine McKinnon  23:24  
For sure, and, you know, we had a lot of people interviewing over the past for a culture fit which can be really problematic, especially when you've already got a homogenous employee base. And we're always looking for culture add and that's what inclusion does. It brings people with different ideas and different backgrounds and different perspectives to create better products and solutions and services. And, you know, I definitely love the work that you're doing with underrepresented talent to help them and help companies sort of access much more of that. And understand that that's going to help drive a much longer-term pipeline. It's not just your initial recruiting, right? It's the people who will be the leaders of your future.

So fantastic. I am interested SAY, in you just sharing a tiny bit more on your seat at the leadership table. So you've gotten a seat, what do you do then? You know, how do you sort of inspire the rest of your organization or influence the processes that are happening at your organization maybe beyond some of the recruiting things that you mentioned?

SAY Yang  24:28  
So, my mentor, Karen Taylor told me you influence by listening. You start by listening. And she is so wise [LAUGH] because it does work. I spent my first 30 days at my last company on a listening tour with executives, talent acquisition leads, and underrepresented minority employees to develop the company-wide diversity strategy. And I then synthesized the input and presented a proposal and budget 30 days later after the listening tour. And what I found is that when key stakeholders are involved from the onset and being listened to, and being part of the solution and decision-making process, they're way more susceptible to buy-in at every level. And that is critical for DEI efforts to succeed. So, I wanted to instill from the very get go through the listening tour that we're all accountable for the outcome of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It's a team effort.

And I often hear a lot of times people saying a company's, oh, you know, we have diversity, equity inclusion. We have a diversity officer. And we can't have that mentality it has to be instilled like every one of us is critically important for DEI to succeed. Another high impact low-cost initiative to change people's minds about DEI is launching monthly lunch and learns around diversity.

So we did this at Getaround, my last company, and we encourage open dialogue and conversations around diversity and creating a common language around our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. Each of these were filled to capacity. There was so much appetite for diversity and understanding it. And through that, you know, we started having these monthly. I started, I launched it with a diversity one-on-one talk on how do we create a SAFE space? And SAFE is an acronym meaning sharing, acceptance, fairness, and empathy for everyone. And that created like a foundation for everyone. Okay, this is our baseline. This is the language and the framework in which we understand what diversity equity inclusion looks like at this company.

The reason why this initiative is so close to my heart is that we ended each of these lunch and learns with an invitation to one-on-one coffee chats with me about DEI. And I said I will listen to any idea you have around DEI and if it makes sense we will implement it. And then these conversations started happening organically throughout the company at all levels. And it really deepened relationships where we spoke candidly about diversity. We created a culture that it's comfortable for us to speak about diversity. And the best part is that each of these monthly events had a budget of $100 for sandwiches. [LAUGH] It was like so, and it was super high impact. And what I want to say about why I think it's so successful is that we are social creatures. It all boils down to relationships, connections, conversations, and a sense of belonging through caring for the person in front of you. Just like I shared through The Talented Tenth, the Black Employee Resource group at Workday completely shifted my mindset around diversity when they had one-on-one lunches with me. That's how it begins and it's a snowball effect. Like now, I'm talking to hundreds and thousands of people about diversity, but it started with one-on-one conversation. So that's how a safe culture grows. It's one-on-one. And I highly encourage everyone to engage like on a very relational level. It's what changes people.

Laraine McKinnon  28:20  
Love it. Actionable, inexpensive, listening, and then you're getting sort of tons of different ideas, right? That's the crux of what we can do. I just want to remind everybody who's listening that you can ask a question in the Q&A section. We're happy to have them. We've allotted some time towards the end for questions either to individual speakers or to the panel as a whole. So please do feel free to type in your questions. Ram, I wanted to shift over to you because, you know, some of what SAY has shared is really that top-down sort of DNI framework. And you've been doing this for some time in both human resources and in labor relations and labor policies. So how have you seen the DNI evolve? What do you think is working well? What advice can you give to those who are in it now? And those who are inspired like SAY was to take it forward?

Ram Jean-Louis  29:20  
Absolutely. Thank you for the question. And I agree with everything that SAY said. Actually, I think she hit it right on the nail. In terms of, you know, when you take a look at diversity inclusion, DNI will never be successful if it only lives in the DNI department or in the HR department. It has to be owned by the business and everybody has to lend their hand.

Just taking a look at the evolution of diversity inclusion, I would say, you know, as of the last couple of, you know, months in light of the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Briana Taylor, and countless others. When you take a look at that, you know, the largest evolution I've seen diversity inclusion is that now we're having a conversation about systemic racism. We've never talked about systemic racism before and that has been a fail on the part of diversity inclusion. At most, when you talk about systemic racism, it used to just be a footnote when you talk about unconscious bias. But now having the conversation in terms of what is the impact of systemic racism on the African American population it's an important talk to have. We're taking a look at 250 years of slavery, a 100 years of Jim Crow, 60 years of separate but equal, 50 years of redline districting. So, there's always learning opportunities. When you're hearing a lot of people kind of fall back on some euphemisms, and they want to say things like, well, you know this is unprecedented you got to stop them. You got to say, whoa, let's back that up. Let's unpack that. What do we mean unprecedented? It's really not unprecedented if we're talking about historically how African Americans and black people have been treated in the United States. There's been a tremendous amount of precedent to actually show that this has always happened and it continues to happen.

What is unprecedented is, you know, the overall global attention that's taking place, and how everybody wants to lean in. So it's our job and it's our responsibility to make sure that this is not cyclical, that this is sustainable. And that as we build out our racial justice strategies because that's one of the things that, you know, we made sure that we spearheaded within our organization, talking about, okay, how can we address some of the issues a second place outside the organization. But we also will recognize that we have to start with the man in the mirror. Again, it's easy to kind of like point to the justice system and say that there's gaps there. Healthcare system, there's gaps there as well. Education, oh, there's so much the education system can do. Corporate America, we have a lot of opportunities as well. And to address those opportunities we really have to come up with a comprehensive strategy and plan and it's really about holding ourselves and holding each other accountable.

Laraine McKinnon  31:51  
Super. All well-thought-out, well put. You know at Emtrain we have this Black Lives Matter lesson that we teach in our unconscious bias training. And it was, well the video is modeled off of an actual event that happened at Facebook. Where Black Lives Matter was written on the wall, and someone crossed-out black and wrote all. And three years ago, we put this in our training. And it was very progressive and sort of very unusual at the time to have us talking about Black Lives Matter in the workplace. And today, it's so obvious that we must be talking about Black Lives Matter in the workplace. That we must be addressing what's happening in the criminal justice system and the social justice system and what's happening within our organizations. And that evolution has happened very fast. And I think your advice Ram is so useful because not everybody's caught up to being comfortable talking about these things in the workplace. And yet it's all around inclusion. It's all around respecting each other, respecting different perspectives, and helping organizations, you know, move along to their stated goals and really coming true and being true for their people.

Hannah, let's circle back around to your expertise in how we change some of the misconceptions for folks with chronic illness or other different abilities in the workplace. And, you know, SAY had mentioned a couple of things in terms of rubrics for interviews. I'm sure you've got some thoughts on that through more inclusive interviewing, and then other things, other work policies that might be updated or sort of brought into the workplace to help make it a more inclusive environment.

Hannah Olson  33:37  
Yeah, absolutely. And SAY, you brought up some great points. You took some of the things I had planned. But, you know, I think back to my previous point, that two thing, two key things that we really try to emphasize is education and awareness. I try to make sure to explain to everyone that disability and chronic illness is not a blanket term. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're sick in a hospital bed. Chronically ill folks really, in particular, they don't always present as sick. I'm the perfect example of this case. When I was so sick, I was struggling with Lyme and I had a permanent IV, but I didn't necessarily look sick. Yet every day was a serious challenge for me as I fought the disease and struggled with the side effects of my treatment. So when I speak with employers or really anyone, I do try to speak about the strength and the resilience of this community. When you're suffering from a long-term illness or a disability, you're inevitably becoming, you know, your own doctor, your own nurse, and you have this incredible sense of self-awareness. So I really try to speak to employers and educate them on, you know, the resilience of the community. And you know, unfortunately, unlike disabilities, there isn't really a standard accommodation list for those who are chronically ill because their needs do fluctuate each day. The most common accommodation request that we actually hear from our community is the need for flexibility. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to work remotely 100% of the time. But it's important that employers are allowing their employees to leave early for a doctor's appointment or to skip out during lunch for, you know, a blood draw. And, you know, these are simple things that employers can do to be more inclusive.

There also really needs to be more transparency at work. You know, by signing up for Chronically Capable or companies like Jobwell businesses are one step closer to becoming a more transparent company, but this needs to continue after the hiring process and while you're actually in the office, or virtual. But you know, managers need to be open to listening to their employees' needs and asking them and checking in and you know these needs can change daily or even hourly. So being open to these conversations, you know, is so important for folks who are struggling with illness. And you know, lastly, I would recommend that businesses form employee resource groups to support these communities. These can obviously help employees to learn, you know, about their rights and to build community with other people like them, but it can also serve as a real safe space. It's not just a network for these people, but it's really a sounding board for employers to understand how their policies are affecting our community. So this is another thing that I think is incredibly important for businesses to take part in.

Laraine McKinnon  36:25  
Super, thank you. We've got some questions coming in as we're talking. And Hannah, I'm going to have you answer this question. This one's about people on the Autism Neurodiversity Spectrum. How do you create inclusivity for them in organizations? Any thoughts there?

SAY Yang  36:42  
Yeah, definitely. And this is something we specifically work with some folks who are on the Autism Spectrum but more so focused really, you know, on folks with chronic illness. But, you know, diversity inclusion, it's an important issue across the board, and we've made huge progress. But, and we've made progress across all the boundaries, you know, of gender, race, and sexual orientation. But the one aspect that's often, way too often neglected is disability, specifically intellectual disabilities. There is a report and forgive me if I'm wrong, but it was from the Return on Disability Group. And it said that 90% of companies they claim to prioritize diversity, but only 4% of them are considering disability in those initiatives, so they're being left out of the discussion.

Hannah Olson  37:29  
So if, you know, disability inclusion is specifically folks with neurological struggles it's more than just about hiring these people. It involves, you know, creating a workplace where disabled employees are valued for their strengths. That they're given the same opportunities to succeed and to grow professionally. To be compensated fairly. To have the opportunity to advance in their careers. Because, you know, true disability inclusion from a business is really about embracing difference. And it's, you know, disability inclusion should be seen as an opportunity, not a chore. So when you hire folks, especially those with neurological or intellectual disabilities, these folks, this shouldn't be seen as a chore this is an opportunity. It's, you know, this is good for companies. The more inclusive and the more flexible and the more policies you have in place it's going to help everyone else around you. So those businesses that are fostering these disability inclusion programs do have better access to talent, and they can find the right person for the right job.

You know, people with disabilities, they might need support, especially those with intellectual disabilities to participate fully in their workforce. And that can range from anything from a physical accommodation to a technological accommodation, such as you know, software. But most importantly, it's about training those around you, training your employees, beyond just your HR managers, in assisting those folks and making sure that they're part of the community and actually embedded. And have, you know, the support should be the respects and the needs and the wants of the actual person with a disability or illness. It shouldn't come from necessarily just the employer. Hope that answered it. But-

Laraine McKinnon  39:14  
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think it does. Because, in part, you really want to sort of respect that person's needs, right? Whether it's somebody on the Spectrum. It goes from anything from introvert, extrovert, all the way up to sort of neurological disabilities. But there's a lot in between too, right? People who just think in a different way. People who, you know, need a certain work environment in terms of the amount of noise or the amount of light. People that, you know, can really deeply focus and just process an incredible amount of information. The more different people we have with these different sort of features and focuses the better our products and services are going to be. Because these are our consumers. These are our clients. These are our customers. And so, you know, whether we've got an opportunity to simplify something or make it more sophisticated all these different people with all these different backgrounds can help us make those things better.

Ram Jean-Louis  40:10  
And I would like to add to that as well. We have a  Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group, and we partnered with them for all the reasons you described. You know, to really help us from an accessibility standpoint what makes sense. When you take a look at who we are at Verizon Media were Yahoo, AOL, Huffington Post, and TechCrunch and Engadget. We build products for diverse consumption so it makes sense that we have everybody around the table providing feedback. So in addition to our Neurodiversity, ERG, we also have a group that focus on mindfulness just overall. Just how do you really make sure that you have strong, you know, mental health initiative to take place within your organization. But we encourage, you know, the exploration of intersectionality between all of our employee resource groups. So getting our Neurodiversity ERG to partner with our African American ERG, or our Woman ERG, so this when they can collaborate and work on different initiatives.

We were also having conversations about people with disabilities. You know this is an interesting time where, you know, we're all working from home right now. I encourage organizations and companies to really kind of, you know, broaden their perspectives in terms of, you know, who they can hire within their organization. Because there were some people that maybe it might have been a little bit more of a challenge for some organizations because concerns about, you know, mobility. But now that everyone's working from home it's kind of opened up the doors. And I really made sure that we've been able to spearhead those conversations in terms of now is going to half full or half empty. Now there's a demographic and a population that maybe has been a little bit challenged to really connect with. Now we have a better opportunity to really connect with them and see how we can create opportunities where they can express themselves through work.

Laraine McKinnon  41:52  
Well, thank you. Got another question coming in and I think Ram and SAY you'll both be helpful perspectives for. What is your top tip for an underrepresented minority who walks into a monocultural workplace where DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is spoken about, but not practiced? And specifically for people of color?

Ram Jean-Louis  42:17  
That is a great question. I'm happy to start off. So you know, I'm thinking about the words of the late great congressman John Lewis. Make sure you go out there and get into some good trouble, some necessary trouble. You know, right now, with everything that's going on, we find ourselves in the middle of three different crisis, the healthcare, financial, as well as the race crises. We've been given a license to really speak from an authentic place. You know, people are writing LinkedIn articles and like, I'm about to say some things right now. I don't know how it's going to affect me at work, but I'm going to have to. Now is the time to speak. Because again, diversity is one part of the conversation, inclusion's the other part. We have to do more than just get people who look different into a room because that's not really how you leverage the benefits of diversity inclusion. People have to feel comfortable speaking up. So you have to really make sure that people are doing more than just looking at the head of the table and waiting until one person agrees so that everybody else can nod. If you don't really have that, where people feel empowered, then you're not really going to benefit from diversity inclusion. So I encourage that one person to speak up. You know be that person that has the conversation.

Hannah was talking about that earlier, I'm the person at the dinner table that's going to talk about inclusion for people with disabilities. Go ahead and do that. Make sure you have that conversation. Because I know I'm the person that's going to go to the meeting where I'm going to look around and be like, oh, you know what,  there's no women in this meeting right now. Should we hold off or reschedule until we can get, you know, some women so we just when we have a variety of different perspectives? You know, the first time you do that, they're going to be like, oh, that's a strong ally. Second time, they might be like, that's cute. The third time, you're not going to get invited. Look like, you know what, let's just make sure we invite some people that's going to come in with from different perspectives so this way we don't have to enter that conversation again. But again, what is your role as an ally when you go to a meeting, and you're like there's no other African Americans? You know, there's no other Latin X. Where is my Asian brethren? So really making sure that you're a strong ally you're speaking up and leveraging your influence for other communities is really a great way. So one of the things that we have to be mindful of is really making sure that nobody feels as if they are the only one. Because we recognize that when somebody feels like they are the only one it's more challenging for them to speak up. So let's not put them in a situation where they will feel uncomfortable or they feel as if they have to be the one that's always bringing up that conversation.

One of the things that I tell folks if you want to take a look at what allyship looks like take a look at our ERGs because our ERGs do a phenomenal job at really advocating for each other. So it doesn't, if there's an issue that's going to impact your community [INAUDIBLE] always be that ERG that speaks out about it. Because right now they are all in tune because we build out a learner's journey overall, in terms of how do we really make sure that there's inclusion and there's equity. Again, the difference between equity and equality. Equality is like, let's treat everybody the same. Equities more, all right, let's take everything into consideration and if we're looking for fair outcomes, how do we need to meet people where they are to make sure that everybody has equal opportunity to let their voice be heard?

Laraine McKinnon 45:15  
Super. SAY some thoughts?

SAY Yang  45:18  
Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, I always start by listening and understanding what the other person's goals are and how we can meet them. So, for instance, when I first joined my last company, it was actually monocultural at the executive level. And most of the executives actually were not bought in about diversity. They wanted to deprioritize it. And what I had to do, what I did was exactly what Ram encouraged like had those conversations. So I set up meetings one-on-one with the executives and first listen to what is their goal. So for instance, the head of growth at the last company, I asked him, what do you care about? What's most important to you? And he said, well, I want to go into new markets. I want to grow our product. And I said, okay, well, can I help you understand why diversity is important? We don't exist in a black and white world but if our company's homogenous we won't be building products for the rainbow that is the global economy. Like, look at it through this analogy. Our economy is we got red, blue, green, yellow like we have all these different segments of population. And we will not build those rainbow products that resonate with our rainbow global economy if we do not have rainbow teams in the room. And they have to feel comfortable to speak up. You can't just have orange, blue, green, yellow, all the different colors in the room, and they're not comfortable speaking. Only red and blue are speaking. So I presented it this way and I presented the data as Ram shared earlier, just like inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time. That's proven by Cloverpop. Delivers 60% better results with half the meetings. So it's a no-brainer. And I think that's one thing like, find out what their goals are and align, show them how diversity is critical for them to reach their goal.

The other thing that I really liked that Hannah shared is the importance of ERGs. If you are in a monocultural environment I would encourage you to propose forming an ERG. We do need that safe space, that sounding board. If really there's like not even that many folks find a sponsor anybody who might be at a peer or even above you, like ask them would you be willing to sponsor me? Because there is a huge, like Karen Taylor, for me was like a backbone to strengthen me to use my voice. Even though you know, there weren't a lot of people who look like me but, you know, I kind of latched on to her and her strength became my strength. So there's strength in numbers. There's my Golden State Warrior shout out.

Laraine McKinnon  48:00  
[LAUGH] Love it. Yeah, and I think I do a lot of work with ERGs as well here in the San Francisco Bay Area through my nonprofit. I see a number of very diverse women in my nonprofit. There is something about talking to other people inside your organization, collaborating on what you think the future needs to look like. How can you go and have the conversations, the personal conversations, and the conversations to bring the data? And then how can you tap people outside? You know, how can you tap people in this network? Across these panelists? Across their broader network to find the great ideas and things that have worked in other companies and bring those to your organization? But it is hard being the only, it really is. And so to the person who asked that question, you know, I feel for you being in that monocultural organization. It is harder and it's something that, you know, we all have perseverance and grit, and we find our ways to get our support network internally and externally and then try to move organizations forward.

We have another question here, which Ram I think we'll probably have you talk to given the work that you're doing with historically black colleges and universities. How can universities support diversity, equity, and inclusion in the tech industry? And can you share any stories from hiring recent graduates at your company, or your own journey through university and entering more of a tech field? So, Ram, I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.

Ram Jean-Louis 49:30  
Sure. Great question. So, again, where you show up has a lot to say with who you're trying to attract your organizations. So having relationships with HBCUs and really making sure that you have a regular cadence in terms of when are you available? When do you spend some time on the campus? When do you set up your virtual Zoom? But in addition to that, how can you lean in and have a deeper relationship with the university? So some of the things that we're exploring are accreditation programs. How can we really influence the type of curriculum that we would like to see? Because we have an idea in terms of what are the products that we want to work on. What are the skill sets? So we can go and share some of that information. So this way, we'll set up something similar to an apprenticeship program. Where we're talking about, all right, this is what we think that we're going to be working on over the next five years. Here are the skill sets that we'll be looking for. We would like to be able to influence the curriculum, and maybe have some people spend some time with us at our office, and we'll spend some time at the university as well. So really building those relationships helps significantly. Also, with accreditation programs and building partnerships with these universities. Are there opportunities as well to allow some of your existing employees to actually participate in some of those, you know, accreditation programs? If someone within your organization, perhaps they're working in finance, but they're interested in tech, but they're looking to do a career pivot. How can you leverage your relationship with these universities so that maybe they can go back and take some additional courses if they're interested in actually building up a career in another area of business? So having those relationships are critically important as well.

And building out, you know, what is your internship class look like? When you take a look at bringing in contractors and bringing in interns, you'll find that most of these groups are the most diverse that an organization have, so working on that conversion rate. Really making sure that you're doing more than just bringing in interns every year that actually some of those jobs are turning into permanent hires as well. And I'm a firm believer that, you know, when the tides rise, everyone really gets to benefit. So you know, bringing in the interns, making sure that you hire some of those interns. But if some of them end up just going into the industry at a competitor at other shops, that's good, too. In a couple of years, they may boomerang and come back to your organization. So really making sure that we invest in the pipeline and we invest in the industry just overall.

Laraine McKinnon  51:50  
That's a great answer. And I think it helps to answer another question that we have. And we're very close to time here, so I just want to address the other question quickly. And it was for very segregated cities, we've got someone who leads a local diversity-focused nonprofit, who wanted to ask how to bring underrepresented groups to tech classes and workshops without tokenizing people? Helping to meet them where they are and help them feel included. And Ram some of what you just shared about partnerships with organizations, partnerships with individuals, partnerships with others who can sort of go to classes with them or help them on the side, you know, could be a very nice way to help those a diversity-focused nonprofit to bring people. And also, of course, the leadership, you know, seeing other people in those roles who look like them makes it seem like that is a natural career progression for folks who are underrepresented.

Ram Jean-Louis  52:45  
Actually, I-

Laraine McKinnon 52:46  
Oh, we got buzzing in here, go ahead. Go ahead.

Ram Jean-Louis  52:48  
In a new world right now with Zoom. So it's easier to actually have people participate with a variety of different organizations across different cities across the country and across the world to really have the engagement that you're looking for.

Laraine McKinnon  53:01  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. All right, so we are close to done here and there are questions coming in. And so I'm going to work with the LA team to try to get some answers back to folks and hopefully, the panelists might be able to assist me with that. So thanks very much to all of you who asked questions. I would like to close here just recognizing that it is a very unique time. We're here in the time of COVID. Can I get a lightning round, super, super fast? Just a couple of seconds, maybe a phrase from each of you? How has COVID made the workplace more inclusive? SAY?

SAY Yang  53:40  
I've noticed that DI events have way higher attendance. There's a lower barrier of entry for people globally. You know, I'm speaking at a conference in Taiwan, like in a couple weeks. But the world is getting smaller and I think especially in the time of COVID and climate change, and as Ram shared about what happened with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery we're seeing that we affect each other dramatically no matter where we are in the world. So I'm, I feel like we're moving in a positive direction in terms of more diverse representation, geographic, ethnic, gender, age at these virtual events, conferences, and these conversations are starting to diversify. Which I love hearing more unique voices that are coming to the surface, so yeah, it's exciting time.

Laraine McKinnon  54:29  
Thank you, Hannah? Super, super fast, quick phrase.

Hannah Olson  54:33  
I just say that, you know, the new rules for working really have opened up a world of employment opportunities for those whose career choices had been previously limited by their health. So those who had been previously left out of the workforce can now gain access to traditional employment and really apply for jobs on a level playing field. So there's still a lot of work to be done, but this might be one of the most significant steps towards workplace quality for the chronic ill and community, chronically ill community to date.

Laraine McKinnon 55:00  
Super. So I'm going to thank Alley, and I'm going to thank Verizon. And I'm going to give Ram the last word since you are with Verizon Media, and we appreciate your sponsorship here. Tell us how we've created a more inclusive workplace in this last [UNKNOWN].

Ram Jean-Louis  55:14  
Fantastic. Thank you for the opportunity as well. I enjoyed being with my fellow panelists. I think it's really about having those courageous conversations and being able to embrace a certain degree of discomfort. One of the major observations that I've found, you know, over the last couple of months is that you find that, you know, when I was speaking to people of color, they were saying that they've been screaming for a very long time about the injustices that's been taking place. When I speak to people who are not a person of color, they're like, they had no idea that this was going on. So apparently, we've been missing each other. So really building on that empathy and building on the model of empathy, advocacy, and action. So having those courageous conversations and really making sure that you allow your authentic voice to be heard is critically important.

Laraine McKinnon  55:57  
Thank you. Thank you all so much for being with us here today. I learned a lot. It was a great breadth of information. Thank you to Alley. Thank you to Verizon. Thank you to everyone who attended. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Have a great day.

SAY Yang 56:11  
Thank you.


Read Next