There is broad consensus in the technology industry that everyone benefits from increased diversity, but how do we make that happen in a meaningful, sustainable way? Reactor Core Software Engineer Savannah Kunovsky and Hack Reactor Alumni Jeanette Pettibone hosted an event at Hack Reactor to discuss this question and a number of related issues.
“We’re at a point in the growth of our company that now we have a lot of alumni that are taking more senior engineering positions and have space to do more than only their job,” Kunovsky explains. “Many of those people are passionate about making change, and that is bringing forth a lot of alumni interested in working on diversity initiatives.”
For example, Pettibone spearheaded an employee resource group with executive support and funding at her company Neustar. This is a group where employees of similar shared experiences can come together and discuss issues that may be unique to them.
Savannah Kunovsky organizes a woman's group and diversity events through the Hack Reactor network.
About 35 people attended the meetup, which included students and alumni of our network schools and other members of the tech community. The discussion started by defining diversity, so that everyone was on the same page.
“Diversity goes beyond gender and race, which are very important, but we want to include more than just those two things,” says Kunovsky. “The group that came to the meetup was very diverse: different ages, tech backgrounds, races, gender--not just software engineers, people who work in different parts of the industry. It was a broad definition of diversity, not just the narrow focuses.”
Much of the evening focused on the importance of allies from majority or dominant groups. It adds strength to the movement, Kunovsky pointed out, to have Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey speak at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology and acknowledge the issues that women face in the tech sector.
As for next steps, Kunovsky is optimistic.
“This is the beginning of something,” she says. “I like to create spaces for people to comfortably talk about uncomfortable topics. For every single person that has space to explore new ideas, as many people as you can expose and have open and honest discussions, the faster and further progress will be made.”
Another attendee came away with the notion that small repeated efforts are an effective way of making progress. He plans to start hosting lunch discussions at his company. Small actions like these, everyone at the meetup agreed, can have a big impact, especially when lots of people make a similar effort.
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