Unless you’re new here, you’re aware that the BLNDED Media team loves events involving leadership, tech and diversity. When we find an event that covers all three of these topics, we know we’ve really hit the jackpot.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of attending the Austin Diversity in Tech Meetup at WP Engine. The new meetup was awesome because we had the chance to network with other entrepreneurs around Austin, Texas who are fighting to improve and grow the Austin tech community in a diverse fashion.
Overall, it was great to hear from community leaders who understand something the BLNDED team already knows: Companies want diversity, but they’re not doing anything about it when recruiting. Small steps like updating employee handbooks to improve transitions/name changes and events like group lunch and learns will help employees feel more comfortable in tech spaces.
The conversation proved to be interactive and certainly ruffled a few feathers, which we were very excited about. It was great hearing different opinions and discussing the many mindsets around diversity in tech because it teaches us all to be open to one another and learn more about the experiences of our peers.
At the end of the day, it’s not enough to just raise diversity numbers. It’s about improving the environment when your diverse team arrives.
Eddy Reyes, Organizer of the Austin Hispanic Hackers Meetup, works hard in the Latino tech community in order to help people who are entrepreneurs show off their goods and skills and help others do the same. He was sure to speak on how soon-to-be and recent grads, like those from his hometown of Miami, get passed over for potential roles due to recruiters consistently going after the same groups of people and not those who necessarily have the required skills. Recruiters must learn to look past their immediate circle of friends and Ivy League grads in order to find quality diverse hires.
Sara Inés Calderón, Organizer of Women Who Code Austin, also spoke on the issues of recruiting. She mentioned that it’s important that recruiting practices change and change quickly. It’s known that companies often want diversity, but they’re not actually doing anything about it. She discussed how corporations will keep job postings up for months in an effort to find a certain elite type of person instead of making simple adjustments in order to broaden the search and fill the role. Sara also highlighted a few situations she’s been in that immediately frustrated her and in turn made her realize even more why diversity tactics in the tech sphere must keep improving.
Frank Robles, CTO of JustLegal.com, was very open about his pride in hiring team members of color. Of their 10 employees and three interns, 11 of them are minorities. However, he noted that while it’s very important to find minorities, hiring managers must also ensure that they’re hiring quality employees and not just trying to check a box to make yourself feel good. It’s not enough to bring anyone on board and have them struggle in their role through their entire employment period or have them feel uncomfortable in the space because the company did not learn how to change. Companies can also suffer in the long-term if employees are not ready for their roles.
With that being said, it’s certainly possible to find valuable, diverse employees who can help shape the face of your company. Employers simply have to be willing to look harder and in the right spaces.
Hayley Netherton is a Venture Associate at Capital Factory, and she quickly proved why the coworking space is so resourceful for diverse entrepreneurs here in Austin. Capital Factory is prepping for August Women’s Month where their only speakers for the entire month are women or companies who have women on their executive team. The space is also hosting a LGBT in Tech meetup on August 24th. Hayley later mentioned that she’s been lucky to work in spaces where it is okay to be herself, even when was she first afraid to do so.
Be sure to check out the Austin Diversity in Tech’s Meetup Page and follow them on Twitter via @atxtm so you can attend their next event as we promise you won’t want the fun networking and discussion that happens when people truly open up and discuss the ever-evolving tech scene.