True to San Francisco fashion, there were a million networking events to choose from last night. And they were all incredibly fascinating.
But, as I was scrolling through Meetup.com, one in particular jumped out at me. Data Driven Women 1.4:The World Beyond Diversity Data. The description read,
"Made the diversity case"...hmmm. Intriguing. As I had just been chatting with a girlfriend about what were some of the tangible business benefits of hiring people with different backgrounds. Not to mention that there were 212 RSVPs.
A few short blocks from BART, the event was held at Brightroll---a digital video advertising company that was acquired by Yahoo! in November of last year.
As I walked into the building, and headed towards the elevators I meet Jenna, a softspoken, friendly woman with brilliantly blue eyes. Who is in charge of managing the entire software engineering team at Union Bank. Love it.
Jenna was just the first person of the plethora of fascinating people at the event. Also attending was Kathy Schroeder, passionate about leadership development, Janice Lee, interim executive director of the San Francisco SafeHouse and former Director of the Asian American Journalist Association, Idan Benaim, VP of Product at Accomplice, Sian Clark, Director of Product Management at Yahoo!, Dr. Lily Benavides, a social scientist with a focus on executive leadership, to name a very short few.
About mingling and partaking in the veggie and fruit spread, 30 minutes after 6, Beatriz Dominguez motioned for everyone to come to the front to hear Lisa Lee's presentation.
Lisa Lee was dynamic, engaging, relatable and on point. She started the discussion by sharing her background in theater and her unconventional path into the tech industry, as well as into Diversity and Inclusion.
Jumping into her presentation, she explained that there are two groups of people.
- People that believe diversity is good for moral reasons and that people with different backgrounds deserve the same opportunities.
- People that need it to make sense. This group needs to be convinced with data that inclusion is good for the bottom line.
As you can imagine, Lisa's presentation and her work is focused on making case for the latter group of people.
For the second group of people, Miss Lisa broke down the importance of diversity into three areas.
It goes without saying, that if a company wants to reach a diverse community (or at least be relevant to various groups), it must have an internal team that can relate to different groups of people and be able to advise the company on how to personalize each interaction.
Cognitve diversity, introducing and incorporating unique ways of thinking, has been described in Inc and Fast Company as one of the main factors in generating long lasting innovation within a company. And we all know that if there's no innovation, there's no future.
Lisa Lee suggested that companies should first start by restructuring how they hire for internship and entry level positions. Companies should actively seek out underrepresented groups for these roles and as they grow with the company, the will be exposed to more executive level roles.
And for those individuals who fall into one or more underrepresented groups who are having a hard time "fitting into the system" in order to get a job offer or a promotion? Some companies, especially within the tech industry, have a fraternity like culture. Which does not appeal to those who are not white, male and from the suburbs. Beer pong, ski trips, talking loudly in meetings...speaks to a culture or upbringing that is not natural for many women, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.
Lisa Lee said it best, "You have to play the game, in order to break the game."
Call it sad, unfortunate...it is what it is. For those of us leading the way, we will have to play this chess game until we hit a critical mass and can flip the board over.
Danetha Doe is on a mission to help every woman achieve financial independence. Accountant and entrepreneur, she is the creator of Money and Mimosas and the host of #FutureofMoney. Connect with her on Twitter, @danethadoe.