Justice Takes Work

July 18, 2017, 10:08 PM UTC

Diversity is a popular topic of conversation at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech, and in some instances, the emotions have run high.

There were many show-stopping moments in today’s outstanding town hall, Fixing Inequality In Silicon Valley, including when Niniane Wang, one of three women who first spoke on the record about investor Justin Caldbeck’s alleged sexual harassment, de-emphasized the role courage played in her decision to go public.

“There was a lot of courage involved, but there was also a lot of hard work,” she said.

Along with an alliance of experts and other accusers, Wang prepared to go on record like it was a project. “We created a timeline and presented logical evidence,” she said. “I put in 100 hours of work after the article came out.” Her goal was simple: “To get a predator out of power.”

Framing colleagues as potential predators was just one of many insights that caused the Valley insiders in attendance to sit up a little straighter. “That one hit hard,” one attendee told me afterward. “It’s hard to see how bias training is going to stop things like this.” Indeed.

For more on the round table, Laura Entis has you covered here.

Wang will be speaking on the main stage tomorrow at 10:05 a.m. MT. You can watch, here.

I’ll be continuing to report on the rich conversations that are happening. Thanks in advance to the great Stacy Jones, who will be handling raceAhead for the rest of the week.

On Point

The woman hired to fix GitHub’s culture is leavingNicole Sanchez joined GitHub as VP of social impact in 2015, to great fanfare and hope. Her vision quest: change the diversity and inclusion practices at a firm that had become mired in an ugly sexual harassment scandal and charges of discrimination. But her abrupt departure has insiders whispering about a culture that had no intention of changing. When Sanchez joined the company, it was fresh off a $2 billion valuation and she had free reign to work. But by 2016, the company had locked Sanchez out of the conversation. “Suddenly it really seems like the executive team, and particularly [CEO Chris Wanstrath] was a whole lot less into hearing ... from Nicole in terms of strategy, and how to handle complicated situations,” an insider told Buzzfeed.Buzzfeed

Study: Cities with more black residents over-rely on fines for revenue
But you knew that. Using data from more than 9,000 cities, researchers from the University of Memphis and Vanderbilt University found that cities with larger black populations rely more heavily on fines and court fees to raise revenue. The difference is vast, from $8 per person in all cities who use fines for some revenue, to $20 per person in cities with the highest black populations. The researchers also looked at majority-black cities which had at least one black person in local government. They found that fine revenue dropped by 50%. “What a lot of cities do is rely on a source of revenue that falls disproportionately on their black residents,” said one of the researchers. But when a black community member joins the city council, “[t]he situation doesn’t become perfect, but it becomes alleviated to a great extent.”

A planned protest will bring quinceañeras to the Texas state capitol
Recent legislation that dismantles “sanctuary cities” by penalizing sheriffs, police chiefs, and other local leaders who don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities has sent shockwaves through many Texas communities. In response, a group of Latina teens plans to show up at the state capitol dressed in sparkly, quinceañera dresses. Each teen will recite 15 reasons why they’re against the legislation, which goes into effect in September. “We thought that this event would be a great way to show people that this is our home, celebrate our culture, and send the message that young Latinas are standing up to the ongoing attacks on our community by our elected officials who work at the Capitol," said a spokesperson for Jolt, a non-profit that helps Latinx people work for community change. The teens don their dresses tomorrow.
Refinery 29

Biased algorithms are everywhere. Does anyone care?
A new initiative, launched this week, aims to identify and eliminate bias in the algorithms that are increasingly used to make vital legal, financial and criminal justice decisions. The AI Now initiative, announced at an event at MIT, is a collaboration between a group of researchers and the ACLU. "[Algorithms] replace human processes, but they’re not held to the same standards,” says author and mathematician Cathy O’Neill. “People trust them too much.” The companies that are developing these machine learning systems don’t seem to be interested in exploring or mitigating possible bias. O’Neill runs a consulting firm says that even companies who know their algorithms are at risk of bias are focusing on their bottom lines instead. “I’ll be honest with you,” she says. “I have no clients right now.”
MIT Technology Review

The Woke Leader

How the other half lived
When Jacob August Riis immigrated from Denmark to New York City in 1870, he had nothing but the clothes on his back and a dream of a better life. Just twenty years later, as a trailblazing photojournalist, his photos documenting the wrenching slum conditions that millions of immigrants called home got the attention of then police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt. If you see something, do something: His work ultimately helped change public policy. His pictures can still provide a shock.
Smithsonian Magazine

How emotionally intelligent is your CEO?
Now might be a good time to review the “Primal Leadership” research from Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. It's a good reminder that a leader’s mood and subsequent behaviors drive the mood and behaviors of everyone else. "High levels of emotional intelligence, our research showed, create climates in which information sharing, trust, healthy risk-taking, and learning flourish," say the authors. "Low levels of emotional intelligence create climates rife with fear and anxiety." Good for productivity, but only in the short term. "[T]heir organizations may post good results, but [the employees] never last." The inner life of the boss matters, which is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Are you biased against co-workers you don’t like?
To find out if it’s your bias or their bad personality, you’ll need to slow down long enough to investigate why they’re getting on your last nerve. Two leadership experts ask you to consider four questions before you write off an annoying colleague for good. The fourth one is tricky: Do you have a clear sense of right and wrong? It’s a good trait with a tough flip side. People who do can be rigid thinkers, with less tolerance for ambiguity. You’re more likely to make biased inferences about people who are different from you, which are unlikely to change over time.


The mostly white, male ‘bro’ culture in Silicon Valley has persisted for far too long, and it’s had a significant influence on the type of technology that gets created. What tech lacks right now is the breadth of diversity that reflects the demographics of America. That omission of experience from the product developmental cycle can really bias the usefulness of technology toward one group.
—Mandela Schumacher-Hodge

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