Diversity and inclusion is a trash fire in Silicon Valley and in the business world at large. But let’s just focus on tech for now. At the Code Conference this evening, All Raise and Cowboy Ventures Partner Aileen Lee, shift7 CEO Megan Smith and Stubhub President Sukhinder Singh Cassidy talked about the state of diversity and inclusion in tech. Lee kicked things off with how the idea and statement that someone is such a “good guy” bothers her.
Often times, she said, that’s the qualification for how many of these men get the opportunity to invest in companies or work at certain companies. Meanwhile, if someone suggests a woman or person of color, Lee said, the questions are totally different and focused on qualifications.
“Good guys have hired and funded good guys,” Lee said.
Moving forward, “we need to systematically map out our industry and business processes and try to take the biases out of them,” Lee said. She added, “people have not been given a fair shot and we need to kind of re-engineer our business.”
“Last year it was like every month there was a new story where you just could no longer ignore it,” Lee said. “We have a lot of work to do but I’m pretty optimistic.”
She pointed to how she’s sat at a board meeting where the male CEO pointed out, unprompted, that he sees the company is all male and is at risk of becoming a company no one would want to work for.
The panel also touched on the importance of diversity at the board level and some backlash. For example, some firms have suggested men don’t have one-on-one meetings with women. But Lee says, “we’re definitely not going to solve this problem by men saying they’re afraid to meet with women.”
Toward the end of the panel, Smith pointed out that “the people who are most left out are women of color.”
While there were women of color on stage at the Code Conference this week, Smith’s assertion was especially notable given the absence of black men and women.