Yesterday, Yiyi and Eric attended Change Catalyst’s third annual conference on Tech Inclusion, a one-day event focusing on discussing solutions to diversity and inclusion in the NYC tech ecosystem. The day was filled with insightful keynotes, panel discussions, and interactive sessions featuring an impressive lineup of D&I leaders and advocates.
A few highlights / takeaways from a jam-packed day:
On dealing with sexual harassment reports (Chai Feldblum, Commissioner At Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
- To combat sexual harassment in the workplace, companies should implement a “zero tolerance” policy. Every level of bad behavior should be addressed, though not every type of harassment should be dealt with the same way in order to encourage people to come forward. (Not every offense is fireable, for instance)
- Management should always treat people seriously when the come forward with sexual harassment allegations, and say “thank you for coming forward.”
On being LGBTQIA & traveling for work (Marion Daly, Engineering Manager At Mozilla; Jaime Woo, Senior Communications Manager At Digital Ocean; Emma Schwartz, Senior Director Of Product At Axios; Colleen Finnegan, Manager Employer Brand At Squarespace; Andy Saldana, Director Of Operations At NY Tech Alliance)
- Often, LGBTQIA folks face distinct challenges when traveling for work. It’s important for management to listen and understand these considerations when selecting business trip locales and arranging travel plans:
- Budgeting more time for intensive search or additional pat-downs
- Getting TSA pre-check for employees when possible
- Some employees feel less safe going to certain areas (more conservative, less tolerate states or countries) because of how they present
- Employers should make it a priority to gain expertise on the unique needs of their employees, including bringing external experts to advise and come up with actionable solutions to create an inclusive environment
On tokenism (Neal Conlon, Founder At The Press Forward Project)
- Tokenism is when you’re employing someone just to check off a box. You can tell it’s tokenism when the moment the reason for that box doesn’t matter anymore, you get rid of them.
- Employers should:
- Not hire someone just to check a box
- Hire people based on their capabilities
- Invest in alternative perspectives
On disability representation (Emily Ladau, Disability Rights Activist At Words I Wheel By)
- Companies / organizations can only achieve meaningful disability inclusion by:
- Listening to feedback from disabled consumers,
- Getting educated about the disabilities concerned, and
- Seeking out stories of disabled people who use their product / services
- The best ways to be an ally are to:
- Share information with the person you are supporting (if you know a job pays x, tell them up front!)
- Be aware of your personal biases
- Ask questions of the person you’d like to help (how can I help you?)
- Employers as allies help people be comfortable bringing their full selves into the workplace.
On creating a culture of equity and belonging (Kristy Wallace, CEO Of Ellevate Network; Katrina Jones, Director Of People & Inclusion At Vimeo; Allie Schwartz, Director Of People Operations At Healthify)
- To create a culture of inclusion at a company, it’s critical for a company to:
- Always strive to get different types of people in the room together and talk about how to make a change, including discussing what it’s like to be a woman of color, disabled, non-binary, etc.
- Avoid addressing diversity & inclusion with only a broad stroke, because the same solution won’t work for everyone
- Create an environment where it’s okay to bring up concerns about company-wide initiatives
On ethics, inclusion and innovation in product design (Annie Jean-Baptiste, Global Product Inclusion Evangelist, Google; Gary Johnson, Director Of Strategy And Operations At The New York City Mayor’s Office)
- Products built with accessibility in mind are easier to use and easier to find. Just by taking performance and accessibility seriously, you can seriously improve SEO.
- A good practice during product development ideation is to go to everyone within our company and make sure you’re constantly getting a lot of feedback from different types of people at all phases of the process.
Overall, the conference gave us a lot to think about as individuals and as a technical recruitment firm with a focus on diversity and inclusion. We applaud Change Catalyst’s wonderful work in putting it all together and love how so many different companies, large and small, are making it their missions to improve workplace culture.