Austin, Texas: The Tale of Two Tech Cities

Austin, Texas’ population is quickly approaching one million residents, but the tech population appears to be split in half.

At last week’s Diversity in Tech event, a unique group followed Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette and Mayor Steve Adler by discussing the importance of making our tech scene unified while on a panel moderated by Laura Donnelly.

Ada-Renee Johnson of Google kicked off the segment by saying too many companies look at diversity as a destination, and not a journey. She emphasized that we’re stuck on a number, and not the experience. While companies are focusing on making the workplace diverse for annual reports, leaders must also recognize the best ways to get there. She mentioned that companies always want to grow, but they need to begin working on their environment and how they can continuously scale that community. Without learning about the community they’re entering and future employees, companies simply cannot be successful.

Her charge to the Diversity in Tech crowd was to be creative in finding and defending our talent choices and to remember that being an advocate for total change in the many categories of diversity is more important than simply checking off one box. Including and embracing diverse employees in a working community is important because if you don’t, taking the time to recruit them is a vain attempt.

Binny Nanavati, former Dell Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion, reinforced something we’ve all heard before: Companies that are more diverse have a higher return. Since we all know this, why aren’t more managers hiring diverse employees to improve their bottom line? And more importantly, why are managers preventing employees from feeling valued and bringing their full selves to work? Raising people up in tech spaces instead of pushing them out will improve the ecosystem for everyone.

Ruben Cantu of LevelUp mentioned that our dollar does matter, but where we leave our dollars also matters. In order to make a difference in our community, we need to continue conversations in our networks on ways we can improve our environments. At the end of the day, he believes equality can never be achieved unless we have every single form of equity.

Eugene Sepulveda of Capital Factory was eye opening when he mentioned that there are a million women missing from the U.S. tech sector and 700,000 people of color are missing. Through his work at Capital Factory, he’s noticed that financial capital is important to entrepreneurs but intellectual capital is just as valuable. Just like Ruben, he’s recognized that diversity has to bring value in more ways than one and even the most successful tech CEOs need to see the demonstrated value of diversity here in Austin, Texas.

Special thanks to Natalie Madeira Cofield & Urban Co-Lab for putting on such an amazing event alongside sponsors including the City of AustinGoogleDropboxHuston-Tillotson UniversityFigure 8Southside PizzaFacebook, and Accruent.