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Wayne Sutton and Melinda Epler

Co-founders & CEO of Change Catalyst

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 30, 2016

Discussion

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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
Hi! We're Melinda Epler and Wayne Sutton, co-founders of Change Catalyst and the Tech Inclusion Conference. Through Change Catalyst we work with tech companies, educators, entrepreneurs, and policymakers around the world to build inclusive startup ecosystems. We also host amazing conferences called Tech Inclusion Conference, Career Fair and Startup Showcase that’s focused on solutions to diversity and inclusion throughout the entire tech industry. Happy to be here so please ask away.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
Hi everyone! We're looking forward to the chat today!
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Susan Cooney@startuphandler · Startup Coach
What advice do you have for a startup team around diversity and inclusion?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@startuphandler When startups embrace diversity it is a key sign they’re planning for success. With data constantly reporting how diverse teams lead to greater innovation, outperform non-diverse teams and provide greater financial returns, it’s a no-brainer for startups to have two primary objectives: create an inclusive culture and hire diverse talent. [see Melinda’s data points from earlier: Gender diverse leadership teams have 15% higher financial returns. Ethnically diverse leadership teams have 35% higher financial returns. It's in your best interest to do it early, while you're building your foundations.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
See you all at Tech Inclusion 2016: Conference, Career Fair and Startup Showcase on October 26-27. http://sf16.techinclusion.co !
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Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
What recommendations would you give job applicants ?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@andreasklinger Like any industry, tech hiring is build around relationships and networking. For a candidate, it's important to build relationships with people in the companies you're looking to work in. Go to networking events, take part in online groups... Don't rely on your resume alone to get you in the door.
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Ryan Manning@ryan_manning · Digital Project Manager
I know a lot of companies have "diversity programs or diversity trainings" but those offerings seem to be more of an afterthought rather than being a part of the company's DNA. How do you build a company where diversity is in its DNA so it doesn't need to have a "diversity program"?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@ryanamanning It starts with the founder. The founders really set the culture. Make sure you embed the values of inclusion into your DNA from day one. That means valuing input from people not like you in order to build a better product. That means having tougher brainstorming and troubleshooting conversations that ultimately take the company farther faster (and healthier). And the first few hires are a big key to your success as a company - from a financial and cultural perspective. While it can be tough when you're in the moment of startup chaos to just hire someone you "know" can get it done, you have to stop yourself and broaden the network of possibilities. You have to hire deliberately. Lastly, empathy, mindfulness and emotional intelligence must be a priority. As I mentioned earlier, leading with empathy must be a core value for everyone at the company. Professional development investment needs to include mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices so that you have a company of people who are self-aware. And the founders have to care about inclusion. Not just "know it's important" but have an emotional and intellectual investment in inclusion.
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Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Which companies would you highlight that do a great job? Are there any special projects worth mentioning?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@andreasklinger we get asked this question a lot. All tech companies can and should be doing a better job when it comes to hiring diverse candidates and creating an inclusive culture for all of their employees. Some companies that are doing better than others are: Slack - the CEO's speaks up, awesome culture & employees feel they can be 💯 at work Pinterest - great culture, hiring and scholarship programs Atlassian - awesome global head of diversity, scholarship program for women pandora - great programs for URMs and women, culture Yelp - has a great head of diversity and unique hiring program Disclaimer many of the companies above we work with at the Tech Inclusion Conference and more - http://sf16.techinclusion.co
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@andreasklinger @Atlassian and @Pinterest. They both work to create more diverse teams by running ‘high touch’ scholarship and apprenticeship programs, respectively. These initiatives help Black, Latina and Indigenous women, plus provide a path for people with non-traditional tech background to get in to tech.
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Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi there. Thanks for joining us today. Can you share with us how you think about inclusion? And if there is one thing we could do as individuals to make a difference - what would it be?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@corleyh Diversity is about inviting people to the table. Inclusion is about supporting and making the space for them to speak and, more importantly, to lead.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@corleyh Everyone has a role in this, whether an underrepresented person in tech or an ally. For allies, your role includes listening, making space for others to speak and lead, sponsoring and mentoring. If there was one thing we all can do, it's to Lead with Empathy.
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Jason Cavness@jasoncavness · CEO/Founder of cavnessHR
How important is culture/diversity for Founders who are attempting to scale?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@jasoncavnesshr Work on it now. Early and always. Gender diverse leadership teams have 15% higher financial returns. Ethnically diverse leadership teams have 35% higher financial returns. It's in your best interest to do it early, while your building your foundations.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@jasoncavnesshr Very. Early employees shape a company's culture. By understanding your employees values and uniqueness it allows you to create an inclusive culture where everyone feels they belong. We also believe that inclusion be part of your core values. Having inclusion as a value leads to an increase in retention, a positive culture and diverse hiring.
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Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Melinda & Wayne! For each of you, would love to hear about. What has been the one thing/risk you've done so far in your career that initially scared you the most?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@mscccc I left my job as a CXO to build a scrappy startup that tackles diversity and inclusion in tech.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@mscccc And I am so grateful for that choice. The emails, in person thoughts, and success stories I see and read are absolutely rewarding. And I am thriving personally.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@mscccc In 2011 I moved from NC to across the country to Silicon Valley to launch and co-found the very first incubator and accelerator for underrepresented tech founders. It was life changing and impacted the entire tech industry. I haven't looked back since.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@mscccc moving across the country from my family and son was hard but the work I'm doing, I'm doing so he won't have the same obstacles in tech and he can have a better access and opportunities when he gets older.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@mscccc hell, being a black man in 🇺🇸 and in tech is a risk by itself.
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Pablo Quiroga@pabloiquiroga · CEO, Fuelixir
Hi Melinda & Wayne - can you give insight into which countries or regions are naturally evolving into inclusive startup ecosystems?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@pabloiquiroga That's an interesting question. We are working on developing inclusive startup ecosystems globally, so I've seen a fair amount of emerging ecosystems. I don't know that there are any "naturally" inclusive startup ecosystems. We all have biases, and systemic exclusion is global - each region grapples with its own need to rebalance power and wealth. So when creating tech ecosystems, we need to build them deliberately. That means expanding our normal networks, developing physical spaces that are welcoming for a broad range of people, ensuring we're building systems that include vs. exclude, building inclusive values into our companies and organizations, changing our hiring practices and building new, broader networks of people. Inclusion takes work.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@pabloiquiroga Inclusion also takes risk @mscccc
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Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Founder, CultureBanx
Hey Wayne and Melinda, thanks for the work you do! What's your assessment of the efforts Chairman Butterfield is leading in getting large tech companies to be more inclusive?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@kwamesompimpong hi can you provide more context to what' Chairman Butterfield is doing?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@kwamesompimpong We need everyone in tech companies to work toward diversity and inclusion - which is echoed in some of the comments above. That includes tech CEOs. And because tech CEOs are the heart and driving force of the companies, they must be driving their teams toward inclusion. Stewart Butterfiled (I think that's who you are referring to?) is doing a few things right here. One, he has made diversity a priority in the company. Two, as a leader he actually makes room for diverse people to speak and lead at the company and for the company. Three, he is present at the table in a lot of diversity and inclusion discussions about the industry as a whole.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@kwamesompimpong One thing I would ask of Stewart and of the tech industry as a whole is to look more broadly at diversity and inclusion. Include more people: include people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQIA, formerly incarcerated, people who are of every age, people who have been educated in a variety of ways - not just from ivy league schools, and people who come from other industries and other countries.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@kwamesompimpong I was like who's "Chairman Butterfied" ... Stewart Butterfield
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Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Founder, CultureBanx
@waynesutton @mbrianaepler Hey Wayne and Melinda. Apologies. I was referring to G.K. Butterfield and the Congressional Black Caucus' work to get more African-Americans in tech: https://cbc-butterfield.house.go.... He's a fellow NC brother.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, my name is RH. 😉 Which companies/leaders do you most admire, Wayne and Melinda?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@rrhoover hi RH my name is ME. ;) (thank you for that) My roots are in anthropology, actually - the study of cultures, cultural shifts, and how individuals play a role in that. So my early heroines were Margaret Meade and Jane Goodall. I saw Jane Goodall speak once - she's an incredible human being. From a tech perspective... I admire Rose Broome, the CEO of HandUp, who is building a tech startup to solve homelessness. She, Sammy Rayner an the team are also working on local policy and systems beyond the platform. Also admire Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Because wow. Paving the way in the world, and also being real.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@rrhoover Hi Ryan, good question. Mary Grove director of Google For Entrepreneurs is one of the best leaders in the world. I admire Marc Benioff for the work he's doing around equal pay and to make Salesforce culture more inclusive Big fan of Morgan and how she's growing Blavity I love seeing the progress of Michael Seibel now CEO at y combinator Always respected 500 Startups and they were smart to hire Monique Woodard Everette Taylor is a rock star! Natalie Villalobos, of Head of Global Programs - Women Techmakers is another awesome leader!
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@waynesutton @rrhoover I agree with all of them. Some of my favorite people. <3
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@mbrianaepler @rrhoover nice mine too!
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
Thank you everyone for your questions, and for having us. Diversity and inclusion is hard, emotional, and takes thoughtfulness, time and resources. We are all on a continuum of change, so forgive one another if we each make missteps. But also hold one another accountable. We can have a tech industry that is inclusive. But it takes all of us working together.
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
Thanks everyone for the questions and what @mbrianaepler said!
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
We hope to see everyone at the Tech Inclusion Conference, Career Fair and Startup Showcase, October 26-27 at the Innovation Hangar in San Francisco - http://sf16.techinclusion.co !
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Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced getting the conference off the ground?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@jakecrump One of the biggest challenges has been getting Tech CEO's to speak at Tech Inclusion Conference.
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Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
@waynesutton @jakecrump How did you get them to attend? You have some awesome names coming up in SF in October. 🙌
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@jakecrump last year we couldn't get any "white male" CEO's or co-founders to speak & this year we have five. Founders of Asana, Product Hunt, Pinterest & more to be announce
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@ems_hodge @jakecrump At Change Catalyst we also do leadership, culture, diversity and inclusion training and workshops. We work with several tech companies and head of diversity officers. Through some of our consulting work and relationships we were able to get tech CEO's and co-founders to speak about how important diversity and inclusion is in tech and at their company.
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Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Wayne and Melinda, thanks for being here today. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the tech industry but are off put due to a lack of diversity?
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@ems_hodge There are lots of paths into tech... for people trying to work in a tech industry, the hiring process can be grueling. My advice is to do the research and find companies that do care about diversity and inclusion and have diverse teams.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@ems_hodge For entrepreneurs, I'd say also do your research and learn which investors are investing in diverse companies.
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Melinda Briana Epler@mbrianaepler · Founder & CEO, Change Catalyst
@ems_hodge One more thing that is important to mention: it's tough to break into the tech industry. Make sure you have people you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. And also take care of yourself.
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Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Which universities would you highlight that do a good job in including minorities? Context: for me as european it was strange to see how isolated access to knowledge and network is in the US. Top universities are for those who can effort and only the very best of those who cant. I assume a lot has happened in the last years - which projects would you highlight?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@andreasklinger Hi great question. We don't work with a lot of universities but more with tech companies to help educate them to recruit outside of their normal ivy league schools. With that being said you're right about the "isolated access to knowledge and network" in America, schools, and tech. Unfortunately, it's divided by class, access, tridition, money and location. A lot of ivy league schools are not diverse and not doing a good job in including minorities. A lot of minorities attend Historical Black College and Universities. Both Ivy schools and all colleges should do more to include and reach out to minorities.
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Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Are there any examples out there of companies doing a great job when it comes to diversity and inclusion? What can others learn from them?
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
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Wayne Sutton@waynesutton · Cofounder Change Catalysts
@ems_hodge in addition to the earlier response what I believe most teams can learn from what companies are doing around diversity and inclusion is that the responsibility starts with the CEO, then the executive team and the entire staff. But accountability must be made by the CEO to create change. Also, it's going to take time and resources(money)