Why We Keep Needing to Talk About Diversity | Summary and Q&A

October 12, 2015
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Why We Keep Needing to Talk About Diversity

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In this video, the speakers discuss the need for diversity in the tech industry and the progress that has been made so far. They also talk about the challenges and biases that still exist, and the importance of continuing the conversation about diversity. They touch upon topics such as the pipeline problem, the role of men in promoting diversity, and the impact of the Ellen Pao trial.

Questions & Answers

Q: Will we ever get to a point where we don't need diversity panels?

While progress has been made, there is still a long way to go in making the tech industry more diverse. Achieving true diversity requires companies to reflect the diversity of their audience and the products they build. Diversity is not just about representation, but it also leads to greater financial returns, wider perspectives, and a more inclusive culture. So, until senior leadership and overall company demographics align with the wider population, diversity panels will continue to be necessary.

Q: When did you decide to be vocal about gender and other kinds of equality in tech?

The decision to speak up about inequality in tech varies for each person. For one speaker, it was after gaining confidence in their work and realizing that the treatment they faced in the industry was unfair. Another speaker felt that the narrative around women in tech was one-sided and wanted to shed light on the positive experiences of women entrepreneurs. The third speaker accidentally started a global movement about diversity after sharing personal anecdotes, which highlighted the need to address the issue.

Q: Why does the conversation about diversity always start with women?

The conversation often starts with women because gender diversity is a visible marker of imbalance. Women make up 50% of the population, so it is evident when they are underrepresented. In addition, many men have relationships with women (mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters), making it easier for them to relate to the issue. On the other hand, diversity based on race or other factors is more challenging to discern and track. It is essential to address all forms of diversity, but starting with gender and race is a practical approach.

Q: If you were running a tech company, what would be the one thing you would do to change the ratio of women and minorities in your workforce?

There isn't one single solution to addressing diversity in a company. It's crucial to understand the specific problems within each organization and identify the highest leverage points for improvement. For example, one company focused on consulting firms to analyze their entire hiring funnel and processes. Another speaker emphasized the importance of retaining women in the middle of their careers, which is a critical point when many women exit the workforce. Building a community, fostering empathy, and making retention a priority contribute to creating a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Q: Do you think there is a pipeline problem in tech?

The speakers believe that the issue lies more in a network problem rather than a pipeline problem. Building a network and accessing great talent is crucial for startups and companies. Men tend to have wider networks and may not know as many great women candidates. To address this, tools like the board list have been created to make it easier for companies to access qualified women for leadership positions. The focus should be on expanding networks and making exceptional women more visible.

Q: How pivotal was the Ellen Pao trial in raising awareness about gender discrimination in tech?

The Ellen Pao trial served as an inflection point for the conversation about gender discrimination in the industry. Regardless of the trial's outcome, the trial itself highlighted the issue and led to increased awareness and discussions around unconscious bias. It sparked conversations about systemic problems and the need for change. However, as one speaker pointed out, the court system may not be the most effective way to address these issues, and alternative methods of speaking up and seeking recourse are important.

Q: Why are there still people who say they would never hire a woman or why do some events have low representation of women?

Unconscious bias and the tendency to be immediately comforted by people similar to oneself contribute to these attitudes. Even if people understand the importance of diversity rationally, their unconscious biases can still impact their decisions and perspectives. When everything is going smoothly, it becomes easy to dismiss issues that don't look familiar or different. However, the speakers also note that many men in the industry are passionate about diversity and want to make a difference. Increasing awareness, changing biases into curiosity, and expanding networks can help address these attitudes.

Q: What anecdote or story encourages you in your work on diversity?

The speakers highlight the numerous stories of girls and women getting inspired to pursue careers in tech and entrepreneurship. Witnessing their excitement and passion for building things that did not exist before is rewarding. They also mention the encouraging response from male CEOs and leaders who show a genuine desire to promote diversity. The fact that men are equally passionate about the issue and willing to participate in initiatives like the board list is a positive sign for the future.


The speakers emphasize the need to continue the conversation about diversity in the tech industry until senior leadership, company demographics, and the VC industry reflect the broader populations they draw from. They stress that diversity is not just about gender or race but encompasses a spectrum of identities and types of people. Although progress has been made, there are still challenges, including unconscious biases and the tendency to favor familiarity. They call for greater curiosity and openness to learn from people with diverse backgrounds. The speakers also highlight the importance of data, tool sets, and networks in promoting diversity and creating better opportunities for underrepresented groups.

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