Tech diversity confab lands Google support

Tech diversity confab lands Google support

Tech Inclusion, a two-year-old effort aimed at helping women and minorities gain a stronger foothold in the technology industry, has just gotten a major boost from Google.

On the heels of a sold-out, two-day conference and career fair in 2015, Tech Inclusion will stage two such events this year on both coasts with the financial and networking support of Google’s start-up focused program, Google for Entrepreneurs. Tech Inclusion was started by entrepreneurs Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler, and is the first major initiative of their company Change Catalyst.

“To us, Google’s participation signals that the work we have done and are doing is respected and scalable,” Sutton tells USA TODAY. “We had a thousand people come to our event last year, and we are aiming to double that this time around.”

Sutton says the next Tech Inclusion event will take place in New York in late spring, with another to follow in San Francisco in the fall. Says Epler: “Having Google for Entrepreneurs as a partner and naming sponsor gives us access to their networks and aligns us with one of the big tech organizations that is trying to move the needle on the subject of diversity and inclusion.”

“Melinda and Wayne have done great work moving diversity and inclusion forward at tech companies large and small,” says John Lyman, head of partnerships for Google for Entrepreneurs. “It’s a topic that is close to Google’s heart and we’re thrilled to join forces with them for their upcoming Tech Inclusion events.”

Some of the benefits of being part of Google’s network include having access to Google employees who can serve as startup mentors and getting help with recruiting speakers.

Google for Entrepreneurs often hosts its own gatherings of tech innovators, with its most recent Google Demo Day event focusing on start-ups featuring at least one woman founder. Google for Entrepreneurs has a broad mandate and provides financial and resource support to dozens of co-working spaces around the world. It also is a supporter of diversity-focused organizations such as Code2040 and Black Girls Code.

Silicon Valley and tech companies in general have long been largely white and male bastions, although just how white and male long remained a mystery. With pressure from media outlets and activists, companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft have begun releasing their diversity numbers, which typically reflected African-American and Hispanic employee populations in single-digit percentages as compared to their double-digit representation in the general population.

Tech companies have started to address the issue in a range of ways, with some creating new positions solely focused on increasing diversity among their ranks. Despite these efforts, the numbers have yet to change significantly. Sutton, however, remains encouraged.

“I see signs of progress,” he says. “People are starting to care more about this topic. There isn’t big change yet in the workplace or at venture capital firms, but it really all starts with awareness, and then you can take action.”

Epler says that the pointed mission of Tech Inclusion “isn’t just to talk about the problems, but also explore innovative solutions through education, changes in the workplace and entrepreneurship.”


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