This week on #WorkTrends we’re talking to Allyson Kapin, the founder of Women Who Tech. She shares how she’s bringing people together to celebrate the people and technologies addressing big problems in the world, and paving the way for a more diverse tech industry.
You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.
Understanding Our Own Biases Is Key
Kapin points to one really interesting area of HR tech: using technology to address and limit biases in hiring. Women Who Tech hosts an annual Women Startup Challenge, and one of the recent finalists created an app called Blendoor that removes all demographics from applications. “We think this has huge implications for HR,” Kapin says.”You don’t know what race they are, so that helps expand the recruitment process and remove some of the unconscious biases at the beginning. We’re seeing more apps like this developed in major corporations.”
“Companies are the most successful when they’re very intentional about building diverse and inclusive networks into their recruitment process,” she says.
There’s a Lot to Be Hopeful About
Kapin points to women who are using technology to solve problems in the world, at work and beyond. “They’re addressing energy security, food security. They’re not letting challenges stop them from pursuing their dreams and making an impact.”
This year’s Women Startup Challenge winner was 13-year-old Emma Yang. She developed an app, Timeless, inspired by her grandmother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. The app uses facial recognition and machine learning to help people with the disease recognize their loved ones.
“One of the things we’re also very excited about is the traction within our personal network of investors in helping to get these women funded. In the past couple of years, since going through our Women Startup Challenges, our finalists have collectively raised over $20 million. We are so, so proud of that,” she says.
Culture Change Takes Time
But even with all of the exciting tech in the market and the growth of women-led startups, some of the latest numbers about diversity in tech are depressing. Last year, about 1.9% of venture funding went to women founders, and only 0.2% of total invested money went to women of color. When it comes to working in tech, the numbers aren’t much sunnier. Only 28% of software engineers are women, and that number has only gone up 3% over 15 years. So what keeps Kapin moving forward in her work to infuse diversity into the tech industry?
“Culture change takes a very long time. The first thing to recognize is you’re not going to see change happen overnight,” she says. “However, it is essential that we keep talking about these issues, and educating senior leadership and board members about the steps they can be taking to address some of these very serious issues within their companies.”
And diversity isn’t just a problem for women or people of color to tackle. “It’s about all of us being allies,” she says. “White people who are in a huge position of power need to be allies to people of color, uplift them and promote them, and do the work to make sure they’re getting equal pay. That they’re getting the same promotions. That they’re at the major meetings and presentations. That they’re getting board positions. It’s on all of us to do this work together, and that’s how we create culture change.”
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