Inclusion in Action: A Path to Tech Leadership

There are many ways to approach technology leadership. For some, it’s about recognizing and putting to use the latest and greatest technologies. For others, it’s about taking a thought leadership position and leveraging that position to speak at prominent tech conferences, or embracing a set of ideals and finding open source alternatives to address your technical needs.

To me, the most exciting development in tech leadership right now is the emerging movement towards greater inclusion in the technology space. This movement focuses on a few key areas:

  • Economic Equity: Why is equity important? According to research, equity and inclusion are key factors for a prosperous region. In the tech world, we’re seeing activists intensify their efforts—in San Francisco and beyond on—to fight against rapidly rising housing prices, and debate the “Brogrammer” culture phenomenon. These issues, if not addressed with more equity in mind, could become as problematic as the labor issues consumer product companies faced just a few years ago.
  • Access to Information: As advances in technology take hold across the world, tech literacy is becoming essential to gain access to information. In order to reach as many people as possible, the digital divide must be closed.
  • Career Development: With technology playing a larger role in achieving success in the new economy, it’s vital that the tech industry take a leadership stance in creating inclusive workplaces. The demographics of America are getting more diverse, and employers should reflect the communities they do business with in order to help drive innovation.

Think Global, Act Local

Right here in Portland, where NTEN and FMYI are headquartered, the technology sector has created 10% of all of the city’s new jobs. In order to help increase the number of traditionally underrepresented groups finding new opportunities as part of this growth, a couple of local tech inclusion-related initiatives are gearing up:

  • The Technology Association of Oregon’s TAO Foundation and Self Enhancement Inc.’s STEM, robotics, and programming are working with kids from diverse backgrounds to get them interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
  • The Portland Development Commission’s Include, Innovate, and Invest program takes a similar tact with adults, working to grow the next generation of diverse leadership in the tech community. It supports leaders from Portland’s underrepresented populations and provides mentors that will help forge the next generation of Portland’s tech workforce.
  • There’s also Chick Tech, which is working to help keep women in today’s technology workforce while simultaneously increasing the number of women and girls who are inspired to pursue careers in technology.
  • Finally, Epicodus has been using an education-based structure that has attracted mid-career change professionals, women, and people of color in the software development field.

How You Can Make a Positive Impact

Where to start? Here’s a handy framework to consider as you build inclusion into your day-to-day activities.

  • Develop an Inclusive Culture: Find similar groups mentioned above in your community. Attend their events, listen, learn, and help support them. We’ve benefitted greatly from our involvement and support of nonprofits over the years.
  • Let Your Product Speak: How can your technology efforts create a better world? This could be through features, implementations that assist ongoing initiatives, and donations.
  • Consider Certifications: Investigate programs like minority and women owned business certifications and B Corporation registration for yourself or for your supplier/vendor diversity efforts. B Lab’s free B Assessment has many inclusion-related criteria and can help with ideas for how to improve your performance as a certified and registered B Corporation to grow our triple bottom line.

As part of a mission driven organization, and as someone who makes use of technology, you know the importance of inclusion, equity, innovation, and tech on making a difference. Think about how your tech efforts can enhance inclusion, and how your tech tools, vendors, and initiatives can more fully integrate equity to produce triple bottom line results. Together, we can help provide technology leadership for a better world.

Justin Yuen
Founder and President
FMYI
Justin Yuen founded FMYI [for my innovation], a visual database software company with a commitment to sustainability, in 2004 after a successful career at Nike managing corporate sustainable development. His accomplishments there included creating organizational change programs, collaboration tools, the business case for sustainability, and global employee engagement efforts. Justin started FMYI due to his passion for sustainability, an interest in how advances in technology can help lessen our impact on the planet while positively affecting society, and how social media spurs innovation. He is on the Board of Directors for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the Northwest Earth Institute, and the Board of Trustees for the National Crittenton Foundation. Justin holds a degree in International Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. Follow him on Twitter: @jyuen.