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Another Tech Company Keeps Its Inclusion Pledge

Some good news to share from the world of technology and inclusion.

A little over a year ago, 33 technology companies signed a commitment at the behest of the Obama White House, pledging to make their workforces reflect the diversity of the U.S. population. Among the companies were Airbnb, Box, GitHub, Intel, Lyft, Medium, Pinterest, Spotify, and Zynga. (Since then, more businesses have added their names to the pledge, bringing the total number to eighty.)

While benchmarks were left up to the individual companies, part of the agreement was to release diversity data on an annual basis. In an update published on the one year anniversary of the pledge, Fortune found that only seven of the original 33 companies published any information at all, and only two released the complete EEO-1 data that companies provide to the U.S. government.

Now, in an update to the update, another company has posted a partial diversity report. UnifyID, a product which uses machine learning to help authenticate users on websites and devices, is still in start-up mode. Yet, they seem to be – fingers crossed – turning into a case study in inclusion. Specifically, how much easier it is to build diversity into your thinking while you’re growing, instead of tossing it in remedially, after you’ve conquered the world.

From UnifyID’s announcement:

On our team, 70 percent are people of color and 24 percent are women. Immigrants make up a significant part of the American workforce, and we are also proud to call UnifyID the workplace of immigrants who collectively represent 17 nationalities (including our interns). Paulo, one of our machine learning engineers, has quipped, “the office sometimes feels like a Model UN conference!” While our size makes us unable to release more detailed breakouts (we respect employee privacy), we will continue to release diversity data in a timely and transparent fashion.

Collecting employee demographic information is always more complicated than it appears, and change takes time. “[T]his report is our first attempt at this, and we hope to make future updates more frequently,” the company said. Noted. But the outlook is promising. For one, UnifyID has opted to mitigate bias in its recruiting efforts by using guidelines from Code2040. For another, the company is actively networking at LGBTQ and women-oriented technology conferences.

UnifyID is talking about diversity early, and often. As the startup, along with other companies that have made the pledge, collects and publishes more information, we’ll be able to see what’s working both for individual businesses and the ecosystem as a whole. While this might feel like one small step for tech, the consistent elevation of these types of conversations, framed by data and amplified by best practices, helps normalize the idea that inclusion works for everybody – employees, investors, and customers.

And that is good news.

On Point

Silicon Valley men to the world: Hey, boys will be boysIf you choose to read this important report from Jessica Guynn and Jon Swartz at your standing desk, I recommend you sit down first. It’s about the backlash, now clearly inevitable, around the recent resignations of Binary’s Justin Caldbeck and 500 Startups’s Dave McClure. The comments are occurring both in public and in private. One entrepreneur and investor explained in a must-read Medium post that McClure was a true ally, women in tech are often unqualified “Sugar Babies” and his ouster was a public neutering of a good man. “A heterosexual MAN…Yes a MAN…A MAN who from time to time has needs and desires of a woman.” Stanford law professor Michele Dauber calls this “bro apologetics,” the Silicon Valley notion that since men are encouraged to push boundaries in business, normal rules don’t apply to them.USA Today

Colorado State launches an inclusive engineering program
Colorado State University has announced a five year, $1.9 million program designed to make diversity and inclusion thinking “integral components” of the courses offered by their Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Diverse teams can produce better results, but only when team members recognize the value of diversity and work in inclusive ways that leverage all kinds of diversity such as different problem-solving approaches and identities,” says Rebecca Atadero, the associate professor who is running the initiative. The faculty plans to, among other things, add case studies that explore bias in engineering. Examples include airbags, which were originally designed for adult men but were lethal for many women and children, or voice recognition software that only recognized the voices of Anglo-sounding men. Engineering can be hard, I guess.
Colorado State University

A new monument adds much-needed perspective to post-Civil War history
There hasn’t been enough discussion about what society gains when public monuments to the Confederacy begin to fade in prominence. Here’s one example: We get Maggie L. Walker back. She was the first woman in the U.S. to open a bank; she also started a newspaper and transformed her Richmond, VA community with her activism and entrepreneurial spirit. She was also the daughter of a formerly enslaved person. And last week, on her 153rd birthday, she got her own monument. “Let us put our moneys together,” Walker said in 1901. “[L]et us put our money out at usury among ourselves, and reap the benefit ourselves. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.” The new statue is part of a plan from Richmond’s mayor to add new civil rights monuments to the many Confederate-era ones. The other part of the plan is to enhance existing Confederate monuments with new signage and context. That part is still being debated.
Washington Post

A four-day seminar to train diverse opinion writers
If you care about the diversity of the opinion ecosystem (smart policy, thriving democracy, etc)  then consider sharing the information about this important opinion writing workshop on your social feeds. This four-day seminar, funded by the Association of Opinion Journalists, is being offered by Poynter and aims to train the next generation of opinion writers coming from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. The Power of Diverse Voices will be offered at no charge to selected participants. Deadline for application is August 14.
Poynter

The Woke Leader

The California wine industry was built on slave labor
The first legislation the young state of California passed in 1850 was called the Indian Indenture Act, and it was designed to do one thing – solve the agricultural labor shortage caused by the Gold Rush. “It allowed any white man to identify a Native American as vagrant, lazy, or drunk, which would permit a marshal or sheriff to arrest and fine him.”  Since the detainees typically couldn’t pay the fines, a week’s worth of their labor was auctioned off to the highest bidder, who would pay the fines and force the prisoners to work in the fields. The law, which essentially stripped indigenous people of any rights, also prevented them from testifying on their own behalf in court. Thousands of people were arrested and sold into labor over the next 13 years; Los Angeles, which was the heart of the wine industry back in the day, passed its own more brutal version of the law. Cheers.
The Daily Beast

A former racist goes on Australian television and mistakes terrorism for entertainment
This is a video clip from an Australian show called Enough Rope with Andrew Denton, a now canceled hour-long chat show hosted by Denton, a comedian and social critic. The guest is former Ku Klux Klan leader Johnny Lee Clary, a “reformed racist” who mentions ropes several cringeworthy times. It’s an odd clip; Clary is breezy and personable as he tells what amounts to a terrible story of escalating threats against Reverend Wade Watts, a much beloved Oklahoma civil rights leader, pastor, and friend to Martin Luther King, Jr. Clary’s story begins in 1979 when he first confronts Wade, and ends with Clary’s abandonment of the Klan after the good pastor wears him down with kindness. But the stuff in between, including the part where he and his madcap group of wayward sheet wearers burn down Wade’s church… is fascinating. And by fascinating, I mean…. I’m not even sure what I mean.
You Tube

Dolph Lundgren on abuse and forgiveness
There were many things I didn’t know about actor Dolph Lundgren. (That his career as a Fulbright scholar at MIT was derailed by a chance “encounter” with Grace Jones is just one example.) But the mental and physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his big, buff military father is another. The pain associated with the beatings and rejection caused him “to freeze inside,” which set him on a predictable path in an unpredictable industry – alcohol, infidelity, estranged family, depression. Through therapy and meditation, he began to unfreeze himself, and slowly rebuild trust and intimacy with people around him. He began by asking for forgiveness. “It was a fight worth fighting, to come to terms with yourself.” What nobody tells you is what comes next: The capacity to see and care about the pain of others. It is, he says, the surprising outcome of doing the hard work on yourself. If you’ve got 14 minutes, this unexpectedly touching TEDx talk is worth your time.
TEDx Fulbright Santa Monica

Quote

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy. This influence though slow, is sure. The doctrines & miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years, to Convert but a small part of the human race, & even among Christian nations, what gross errors still exist! 
—General Robert E. Lee