Ellen Pao, Laura Gómez and bethanye McKinney Blount

Founders of Project Include

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 12, 2016

Discussion

laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
Hi - We're Ellen Pao (investor/writer, ex-reddit), bethanye Blount (founder/CEO of Cathy Labs, ex-Facebook) and Laura Gómez (founder/CEO Atipica, ex-Twitter). We founded Project Include as part of a group of 8 tech leaders to drive meaningful change in tech diversity and inclusion. We're excited to be here -- ask us anything!
neeharika sinha@neeeharika · Google, Threadchannel
Hello, Love what you all are doing. Just wanted to know how can we participate in your efforts?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@neeeharika We're building a community where people can share their experiences and recommendations. If you are at a startup or VC firm, you can apply for our Startup Include and VC Include programs to work on implementing our recommendations. Please sign up here to join: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/...
Christie Pitts@imchristiepitts · Ventures Development, Verizon Ventures
How can VCs influence existing portfolio companies to design for inclusivity? What small changes can VCs make to improve their outcomes in investment, networking and hiring?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@imchristiepitts We believe building diverse firms and measuring portfolio diversity can help. We've asked VCs to include diversity metrics in their portfolio reporting requirements. Here's where: http://projectinclude.org/leadin....
Christie Pitts@imchristiepitts · Ventures Development, Verizon Ventures
@ekp thanks! We are making efforts at my VC firm that are forward looking - but we have 50+ historical investments and countless past projects to consider. Like other VCs, we make follow on investments in our existing portfolio. Open to all thoughts of how to improve the entire ecosystem, not just new investments. PS - Thank you so much for participating in this chat and launching Project Include! 🙌🙌🙌
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Any ideas on how to change the discourse around diversity + inclusion so companies/founders/VC's acknowledge the role that bias plays when evaluating potential investments & hires?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@charles_kunene We've tried to round up relevant research and stories in Medium and Model View Culture at projectinclude.org. We're also having conversations, both publicly and privately. Sharing materials, having multiple people share their views, and calling out questionable behavior all make a difference.
Kate Rose@katerosebee · POps @ Elevate
HR managers find themselves often "assigned" responsibility for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Do you have any advice to help HR and People Ops teams invite in CEOs, founders and other exec leadership to share ownership of those priorities?
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@katerosebee Such a great question! Project Include strongly feels that commitment to diversity and inclusion should come from the very top of a company - the CEO/founder level. One way to help have this conversation with CEOs/founders/other execs is to start with our recommendations about implementing culture (http://projectinclude.org/implem...) to help give them an outside perspective on why this is so important. Another way to help structure the conversation is by grounding it in metrics about the state of your organization. The metrics we cover on projectinclude.org (http://projectinclude.org/measur...) are a good starting point.
Kevin Renfrow@renfrowk · Always learning.
In your about page, it states that your recommendation for a 'real solution' includes that "companies should improve opportunities for all employees, including all underrepresented groups (gender, race, class, age, religion, disability, education, sexual orientation, and others)." There are also many instances where you stress the importance of gender diversity. According to your 'Team' page, it appears that your team is composed entirely of females (or at least all descriptions use pronouns she/her). Do you have plans to include males and people with other gender identities on your team? If not, how do you reconcile this apparent contradiction?
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@renfrowk Hi, Kevin. Thank you for asking this - great question! Project Include came together initially from our shared extended networks. Once we had the core group that we are today, we struggled with this exact question. We had to balance our desire to have more gender diversity on the team against the difficulties of coordinating the process of researching, building, and publishing our recommendations. We were incredibly fortunate to have the support and contributions of people outside the core team, including people who identify as non-binary and male. We also directly solicited feedback throughout the process from people who are not cis women. Project Include is going to grow and change over time, and I absolutely expect as we do, the core team will include people with different gender identities.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
What advice would you each give to someone looking to get into tech but is afraid they might be marginalised due to their sex, race, skin colour, background?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@ems_hodge I loved how Project Include teammate @ericajoy said it yesterday: “I would say that this culture may seem daunting but you CAN come here and you CAN succeed and you CAN achieve anything that anyone in this industry can — you’re probably better at it because you had to work harder to prove yourself. Come into this, don’t be shy about it, speak up for yourself and take what’s yours.”
EricaJoy@ericajoy · Slack Technologies, Inc.
A lot of my female friends describe operating in this environment feeling like "death by a thousand paper cuts". How do you all practice self-care? Any strategies on the top of your head for staying strong? And big thanks Ellen, bethanye, and Laura for doing this AMA!
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@stella It Lately, the Project Include "squad" has helped me heal a lot :). My friends and other women have been there for me as well. Thank you, amigas! <3 Furthermore, I am big proponent of mindfulness and seeking strength from others - especially allies. Maintaining positivity has kept me strong, even when these microagressions hurt and get the best of me.
Corey Hubbard@corey_hubbard · Founder - DreamHighr
Hello Ellen, Bethanye, and Laura, I want to thank you all for taking our questions 2day. So, would Project Include work with a startup building an app that assists hiring managers with their diversity hiring practices?
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@corey_hubbard Hi! We haven't planned to build an app or collaborate on building an app for hiring managers. At Project Include, we focus on the entire employee lifecycle, which includes the hiring process but doesn't end there. We have a list of some useful resources for hiring managers here: http://projectinclude.org/employ... and we're adding to that list as new products are brought to our attention.
Corey Hubbard@corey_hubbard · Founder - DreamHighr
@bethanye ! thanks a bunch and I sent an email through Project Includes website😀
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Ellen, Laura and bethanye thanks so much for being here today! If everyone working in the tech industry could do just one small thing to improve diversity within the industry, what would it be?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@ems_hodge Personally, I'd like diversity advocates and allies to understand and include intersectionality in their conversations.
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@ems_hodge We believe that the CEO has to drive from the top down. Things that everyone can do to help are to point out problems when they come up early and to let people know when things aren't working. Share your stories and your experiences to help others understand and hopefully empathize. Sometimes it takes hearing something 10 times before someone will change, so even if it doesn't seem like you're making a difference, you probably are.
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@ems_hodge One small thing - if you're not a member of an underrepresented group, *listen to your colleagues who are and believe them.* Really. Don't put your energy into trying to tell them all the reasons they are wrong or why a situation they describe isn't something that YOU would do. Just believe them. Once you do, you'll start to notice all sorts of things that you hadn't seen before.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@bethanye thank you this is really great advice.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
How can non-hiring managers help to diversify teams?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@bentossell Hi Ben! Diversification of teams starts with every single employee, regardless if they are hiring managers or not. Asking the right questions to recruiters about their sourcing, advocating for inclusive job descriptions, disseminating open reqs in diverse groups and holding your company's leadership accountable on their numbers are great first steps.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
If all of your experiences, has the attitude towards inclusion in tech become better? Are we heading in the right direction, and if so what has changed?
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@ems_hodge In my experience, it's gotten better... in a way. A few decades ago, we didn't really talk about inclusion in tech. It just wasn't discussed, and for the most part -- even though it wasn't any less of a problem -- it was never thought of as something wrong (at least not in open conversations). The industry is talking about the lack of diversity and inclusion now as a problem, and that in and of itself is better than silence. But along with those discussions, we surface strong emotions -- sometimes very negative emotions. Talking is better than silence, but it (so far) comes with a cost.
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@ems_hodge Inclusion has become bigger, more visible issue. It's being talked about, thought about, and is just starting to get addressed. In some cases, the discussion comes from a place of fear; people like the way the world is working for them, they believe tech is a meritocracy and are unwilling to consider how certain groups are blocked by bias and old processes and relationships. These conversations are frustrating and can make it seem like we're not moving. But generally, the conversations seem more nuanced, are more research-backed, and more inclusive. People are starting to understand how prevalent bias is, and most people believe in giving every employee a fair shot at success. How we get there is going to be hard, but we believe it is possible and are doing our best to help.
Addison Margaret@addison_pars
What are some actionable changes to the recruiting process that can help reduce/eliminate bias and send the right signal to interviewer?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@addison_pars From acknowledging the biases and pattern matching, to using technologies tackling this issue, we have an extensive list of recommendations here: http://projectinclude.org/employ...
Addison Margaret@addison_pars
@laura I've been reading as the chat continues. This is an excellent resource! I'm a one woman sourcing machine and this is hugely helpful. I love what you're doing here and appreciate the guidance so much.
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@addison_pars Thank you, Addison! Feel free to reach out to us if you have any more questions. More than happy to help!
Addison Margaret@addison_pars
Hi I am championing a diversity initiative in my current company and really could use all the help I can get. I want to bring inclusion awareness to the foreground and create a welcoming space for the best minds. That being said, I'm sure I have some inherent bias as well. How does one identify and correct bias (personal or among colleagues) and educate without insulting?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@addison_pars Excellent question, Addison! We are humans and we all have biases. For example, the eight women in Project Include have different experiences and backgrounds, as well as opinions and points of view. But by acknowledging our biases and attempt to modify the behavior that is most damaging to other's professional and personal happiness is a great first step. I do this every day!
Everett Harper@everettharper · CEO, Tetherpad
First, congrats on launching Project Include. (waves to b) Q: We have 50% women egrs, and we work w/ clients & partners who may not have the same commitment to diversity and inclusion. What are examples where a male ally / manager / CEO gave you the right kind of support outside of your organization so you could do your best work?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@everettharper Hi, Everett, when you say outside your organization, I assume you mean outside the company? I don't have many examples. My manager apologized to me after a business meeting where someone we wanted to partner with asked me out aggressively and repeatedly even after I made it very clear that I was not interested. I found it helpful and supportive even though it wasn't super effective.
bethanye@bethanye · CEO, Compaas
@everettharper I hate to say it, but I think that the best "outside my org" support I've gotten from male allies has been from men I used to work with. I already had context with them based on that shared work experience, and that shared perspective was the foundation of trust for conversations. ( Related: I so miss @joemiller <3 )
Everett Harper@everettharper · CEO, Tetherpad
@bethanye dang, yeah. Anyway, that's my frontier. Jen (cofounder) can handle herself, but some of the less experienced folks already encounter "situations".
Everett Harper@everettharper · CEO, Tetherpad
@ekp outside the company, yes. Right now, we're handling by making sure all 1v1's have space to discuss these kinds of human interactions (rather than just how to unblock projects). Then we make sure client leads have the heads up and can watch for those dynamics in meetings or in work product. Trying to strike the balance between "solving the problem" vs. "supporting the person to solve the problem"
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
How does the tech industry compare to others? Are other industries tackling the issue better? Can we learn anything from them?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@ayrton We are happy to see diversity issues being confronted in other industries such as entertainment and media... surfacing the inequalities and discrepancies and we hope to learn from their initiatives and activism. We also understand that the high-profile nature of the tech industry can help set an example as well.
Vaibhav Mallya@mallyvai · Founder, OfferLetter.io
There's been a significant change in the funding and financing environment in the past year. How does this affect diversity initiatives and URMs?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@mallyvai It's a big concern--one that motivated us to publish our recommendations as soon as possible. We talk about it on projectinclude.org: "Recently, we as a group have also become concerned about the impact of belt-tightening at tech companies. Budget cuts can shrink diversity initiatives, while layoffs and attrition can disproportionately affect women and underrepresented people of color, and achieving diversity is harder when companies aren’t hiring."
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
VC's typically rely on their networks to vet and recommend potential investments but if these networks are racially/gender homogeneous, its likely that VC's will fund founders who look the same so what can investors do to open up their funnel?
Ellen Pao@ekp · ex-reddit
@charles_kunene You've pointed out one of the biggest problems in tech and VC. VC firms should be looking outside their comfort zones, building relationships with new people and groups, and reaching out on their websites and through their networks. If VCs made an effort to invest in companies with diverse founders and teams, people would figure it out quickly. For example, Kapor Capital, Aspect, Bronze, Cross Culture Ventures, and more VC firms have teams that are diverse and are investing in diverse teams.
Amina Elahi@aminamania · Reporter, Blue Sky Innovation
@ekp @charles_kunene This is something I've explored a bit through my work reporting on the venture community in Chicago (http://www.chicagotribune.com/bl...). Which cities, if any, do you think are approaching diversity in tech in a healthy and productive way? And what can we learn from those communities?
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
@aminamania @ekp We first based our startup in Boston and are now in Dallas; I can't speak for other hubs like NY, SF and Seattle. Boston seemed more diverse (not by much) but more importantly, the VC's were more open-minded and willing to take time and listen. They've been a few moments here in Dallas when that hasn't been the case but it comes with the terrain so you just have to deal with it. I think that Ellen (@ekp), can bring more experience and learnings to the table on this one?
Amina Elahi@aminamania · Reporter, Blue Sky Innovation
@charles_kunene @ekp It certainly seems like different cities — and their respective economic, racial, political, etc. makeups — handle this in different ways. I'm glad to hear you had a good experience in Boston; I imagine open-mindedness and willingness to listen are key to inclusivity.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@topaz_tee hi topaz we're having an open chat about Project Include and diversity in tech, if you have a Question on this, please feel free to leave one here. 🙏
Undisclosed@anonym_us
Hi, thanks for your time. Given that the current hiring process (e.g. resumes) is ridden with biases (like names, universities or pedigree), do you think that an automated, standardized assessment in lieu of the resume might help eliminate some of the biases and open more doors to minorities? E.g. for engineers, taking a coding test as the first step of the interview could help illuminate talent that might have been overlooked on a resume, referral or LinkedIn. Thoughts?
laura i. gómez@laura · Founder, Atipica
@anonym_us Great question! There are a lot of technologies out there tackling this issue (disclaimer: I am the founder of one of this tools). However, we also thought about the feasibility and implementation of recommendations outside of the tools. You can check it out here: http://projectinclude.org/employ...