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Fortune Brainstorm Tech Tackles Diversity

Short up top today, since I’m in Aspen helping the team prepare for Fortune Brainstorm Tech, which gets underway at 2pm Mountain Time.

I can already report that diversity and inclusion are top of mind for most of the attendees I’ve spoken with, inspired by the torrent of difficult news coming out of the tech sector, the current national rhetoric around race and immigration, and a growing understanding that diversity is both a business and moral imperative.

The Brainstorm organizers have included several vital panels that will directly address the topic of diversity and toxic cultures. They’ve also asked participants to answer a candid survey on the state of diversity within their own firms. It should be an interesting reveal.

You can follow along on our live stream for all the big top events; the smaller events, like the working roundtable discussions, will appear as reported stories on

Don’t miss the real time conversation under the hashtag #fortunetech and on our twitter feed. Of course, you can follow me, your faithful correspondent, on Twitter and Instagram as well. Hit me with your questions or comments and I will get them into the mix if I can. (I’m pretty sure I can.)

On Point

A new lawsuit alleges sexual assault and cover-up at performance management software companyBeatrice Kim is suing her former employer, BetterWorks, and its CEO Kris Duggan, for allegedly assaulting her during a company retreat. She further alleges that senior individuals created a workplace that allowed harassment to thrive in many forms, and took no action when Kim brought her complaint about Duggan to the company’s attention. Click through for the entire, sordid story, which involves an apparently intoxicated Duggan grabbing Kim in such a way that “…her buttocks and genitalia were physically proximate to Duggan’s pelvis…and then began pumping and pounding Plaintiff’s legs up and down and dancing with her legs and feet.” A co-worker was forced intervene and Kim began sobbing. It gets worse from there. Kim is asking for a jury trial, and Duggan is not commenting on the pending litigation.TechCrunch

Obama Foundation wins high-ticket donors
Now free from the self-imposed ethics boundaries put in place while he was in office, Barack Obama’s new foundation has begun fundraising in earnest. Their strategy, used by major philanthropies and cultural institutions, is to go for the big money first. On Friday, the foundation announced Exelon and Microsoft had both donated a million dollars apiece. The foundation did not announce any details associated with the donations, like sponsored programming or signage. Exelon’s senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer, William A. Von Hoene, Jr. is a long time supporter of Obama’s political career; he’s also the co-chair Obama Foundation Inclusion Council, which was created last year to help design diversity and inclusion into the development of the future Obama Center.
Chicago Sun Times

The black person’s guide to “Game of Thrones”
I tried to watch Game of Thrones like everyone else in the world, I just couldn’t make it past the first violent episode. (Don’t @ me on this, just do not.) But for people who are either unfamiliar with the story or don’t believe it’s “their sort of thing,” The Root’s Michael Harriott has the perfect explainer on what the show is and why its value extends beyond the gore. It’s a case study of white-on-white violence, he says. “GOT is basically an all-encompassing analogy for white America and should be studied in the same way seventh-grade English teachers make their students dissect Animal Farm or Lord of the Flies to understand society.” He may be on to something. Turns out, there’s been a significant uptick in scholarly interest in the Middle Ages; Harvard is one of many institutions now offering a medieval studies course inspired by Game of Thrones this fall. History majors rejoice!
The Root

Indigenous communities publicly move to support the Paris climate agreement
About a decade ago, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Council began planning for climate change. Located on the Puget Sound in Washington, the reservation is at risk. A 2006 storm event persuaded the Council to become the first in the nation to create a “climate adaptation plan.” When President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was withdrawing from the Paris climate accords, the Swinomish, now joined by six tribal governing bodies, quickly affirmed their support for the agreement. While indigenous communities tend to have a small carbon footprint, they are among the most severely impacted by climate change. Of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., 40% of them are in Alaska. Some 30% of Alaska Native villages are in imminent peril due to coastal erosion, and many others have already been evacuated.
High Country News

We don’t know enough about hate crimes in the U.S.
There are many reasons for this, but here’s one to consider: Scores of federal agencies who are supposed to report detailed information about hate crimes routinely fail to submit the statistics to the FBI’s national hate crimes database. As ProPublica explains, “The lack of participation by federal law enforcement represents a significant and largely unknown flaw in the database, which is supposed to be the nation’s most comprehensive source of information on hate crimes.” As a result, ProPublica has joined forces with newsrooms around the country to better get a handle on hate crime in the country. The project, entitled Documenting Hate,“is an attempt to overcome the inadequate data collection on hate crimes and bias incidents in America.” Reporters are collecting incident reports from civil rights groups, as well as from law enforcement, social media and local news. They’re also asking people to share their stories. Click through to learn more about this fascinating and essential collaborative data project.

The Woke Leader

We knew the solution to police violence a century ago
Ida B. Wells, the civil rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP, mapped out a strategy to end lynching, which was one of the most horrific aspects of the black experience in the U.S. during the decades of Jim Crow. According to Keisha N. Blain, the assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, her anti-lynching campaign is also a blueprint for addressing police violence today. In a speech to the NAACP, says Blain, Wells “acknowledged three “salient facts” about lynching that are equally relevant concerning police violence today: 1) racial prejudice is at the heart of these acts of violence; 2) criminality is “the excuse” we use to justify these acts but they are certainly not the cause; and 3) “it is a national crime and requires a national remedy.” Her solution? Present meticulously collected data debunking the claims that black criminality was the cause of white mob violence. Wells, the data queen we needed then, and now.
The Lily

Revealed: Three ableist myths about Helen Keller
Turns out, there are many aspects to Helen Keller’s remarkable life that have been lost to mythmaking and cultural bias. The first, was that she was unable to communicate at all before Anne Sullivan rescued her. In fact, she had worked out some 60 effective signs as a child, that helped her communicate with her family. There’s quite a bit about her radical politics as well that’s been erased – an avid socialist, she believed that capitalism was to blame for many of the conditions associated with disability and poverty, for example. But the third may be the most heartbreaking. Young Keller had a devoted beau at one point, who was driven away by her family. They wanted to preserve her image of purity, to maintain her celebrity status. “Though she could speak up about equality, the rights of others–even, occasionally, sexuality–she was not granted the rights she sought for others,” said one historian.
Smithsonian Magazine

When the black girl the world sees as less innocent is your child
Jonita Davis has written a poignant essay in response to “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” the recent study from Georgetown University that showed that black girls are viewed as less innocent than white ones in the U.S. “Black girls, according to the study, are adultified, sexualized and deemed overly aggressive from a young age,” she writes. “This news was a shock to everyone but black mothers, who live with this truth every day.” Davis became a vigilant mom, screening white adults for any sign of cruel bias. As a toddler, her daughter was shamed for her “curves,” prompting Davis to abandon the two-piece bathing suits the other white two-year-olds wore. In middle school, she refused to let her daughter sleep over at a friend’s home after a stray comment from the father about how “fast” her daughter was alarmed her.  She wasn’t able to protect her baby from everyone, but she still tries. “We have spent our lives playing the villain to white girls, and being punished because of white girl tears,” she says. “So we shield our daughters from the troubles, and teach them to see it coming.”
Washington Post


Education should train the child to use his brains, to make for himself a place in the world and maintain his rights even when it seems that society would shove him into the scrap-heap.
—Helen Keller