How to create inclusive environments in tech lessons learned from the 2016 tech inclusion conference

At Uncorked Studios, we strive to create great products while further developing our incredible teams and individuals.

Our culture emphasizes the concept of fostering people first while creating an inclusive environment for everyone. Through this mindset, we aim to attract and keep the best talent out there. However, merely announcing our beliefs will not attract diverse talent alone. We have to learn, grow, mentor and work hard to bring a talented and diverse workforce to Uncorked.

Now the question is, how do we do this?

Part of our process for this is learning more about diversity, which has led to us to doing a few internal trainings that we have made available to the entire team. We have been grateful for the in-house training on Unconscious Bias from Paradigm and workshops with Portland’s LGBTQ community center, the Q Center.

However, we also understand the importance of interacting with other people who are discussing these topics outside of Uncorked, which is why we participated in the 2016 Tech Inclusion conference presented earlier this month by Google for Entrepreneurs. A couple of us were able to attend and learn more about the challenges faced by those underrepresented in tech.

Taking place in the historic Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, I was excited to see, firsthand, the examples that help foster inclusive and accessible environments: from panels on race and gender, to inclusive bathrooms, ASL interpreters and live captioning.

Some of the biggest names in diversity and inclusion in tech were in attendance presenting on a range of topics. From paths to leadership and building inclusive teams to sourcing diverse talent and ensuring companies create a safe place for employees.

But the biggest takeaway and theme that ran throughout all the sessions was creating an awareness and empathy for all—understanding the intersectionality of your team. Employees are multidimensional and much more than just race and gender. The idea of intersectionality is that we are a combination of overlapping identities, shaped by our gender, class, sexuality and more—it’s about understanding that the whole experience of a person is not defined by one factor. In essence, each person’s traits trickle down to their teams, products and users.

During the first morning keynote, Evan Sharp, co-founder and CCO of Pinterest, talked about the importance of building an intentionally diverse team to broaden perspectives, reach more end-users and build a better future for everyone.

But in order to build a diverse team, your emerging leaders need support from mentors and sponsors to help them grow in their career. Kodi Foster, SVP of data strategy at Viacom, shared his experiences and emphasized that everyone should know who their sponsor is within their company—knowing who will not only give you career advice but will also fight for you when you aren’t in the room.

But what if there is no one like you in your company? Makinde Adeagbo, founder and CEO of /dev/color, talked about reaching out to peers across the industry and building peer groups to provide advice on advancement and offer support. Kodi and Makinde challenged everyone in the room to be mentors, to be advocates and to be change agents within their organizations.

Throughout the entire conference, all the speakers and panelists reinforced turning up the dial on inclusion and creating a place for all employees to be their true selves. To make inclusion work, everyone needs to be part of the dialog and conversation, even if these conversations are difficult and uncomfortable. The feeling of discomfort is OKAY! Experiencing the growing pains and using these muscles is what keeps the conversations open and safe for all parties—even though it can take some stretching.

At UCS, we remind ourselves to take actions through growth, learning and mentorship that keep pushing diversity and inclusion. The goal is to create a safe workplace that will in turn build stronger teams, ultimately enabling us to create products that better reflect the diverse needs of the world around us.

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