When will tech look like America?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · May 22, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3d8e

At Splash Oakland, Oakland's Mayor talks to diversity leaders from Google, Kapor, Pandora


The US has a racially and ethnically diverse population and there are more women than men, yet the tech world doesn't mirror this. Talk about diversity, or more accurately the lack of it, in the workplace is a hot-button topic, especially in Silicon Valley.

At Vator Splash Oakland 2015, we thought it made sense to take a deep dive into this discussion. After all, Oakland is one of the more diverse communities in the country. And with tech startups, jobs and investments booming across the Bay and now overflowing into Oakland, the question is very germane there: Will Oaklanders have the same opportunities to start tech companies and rise in the ranks? Or will the typical all-white-male makeup inside corporate tech America continue unabated and leave Oakland's diverse population of Blacks and Hispanics and of course women, out of the picture? If Oakland's tech ecosystem can reflect the diversity of the people who live there, then it would be a role model for the country. 

So we partnered with Kapor Capital and co-founder Freada Kapor Klein to pull together diversity leaders across technology. We also asked the Mayor of Oakland to jump into the discussion to hear her views on how government policies could help bring about gender and racial parity in the workplace. 

Evie Nagy, writer at Fast Company, moderated the panel that discussed "When will tech look like America?" at Vator Splash Oakland 2015. The panelist were Freada Kapor Klein, Co-Founder of Kapor Center; Libby Schaaf, Mayor of City of Oakland; Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code; Nilka Thomas, Manager of Global Diversity and Talent Inclusion, Google; and Lisa Lee, Senior Diversity Manager at Pandora.

Here are some highlights:

Freada Kapor Klein kicked off the panel discussion with stats on the makeup of tech companies, showing that two-thirds are male, 60% are white, 28-30% Asian and 3% Black. "This isn't what America looks like," she said. She explained the "leaky tech pipeline" metaphor, in which aspiring minorities drop out of the path toward successful tech careers while getting education and entering and remaining in the workforce. Some reasons include the "Pygmalion Effect" which is when teacher's positive influence and expectations for certain students produces positive results. Kapor Klein suggested that teachers placed greater expectations on some students, and lowered expectations on blacks and minorities. So they drop out of getting educated, or they do poorly. In the workforce, they lack role models and they experience resume bias, so they eventually drop out then as well. Kapor Klein emphasized the need for society to rid itself of bias and culture differences. 

Nilka Thomas of Google spoke of Google's policies and plans to address the lack of diversity inside the corporate giant. "Part of this, is being transparent," she said. "The more we push organizations to push data, the mopre progress we'll make.... People don't change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat." Increasingly, data about the makeup of Google is being shared with all employees, including the many men who work there, she said, explaining that if 70-80% of your organization are men, they need to be part of the conversation. Thomas also said that Google is not only working with K-12 programs, but college programs too. For instance, they have Google engineers working on five campuses and working with minorities to prepare them for the workforce. 

Mayor Libby Schaaf said she's focused a lot on making sure pre-school is available to all parents. She pointed out a statistic that showed that 40% of kids entering Kindergarten weren't ready. "We need to enable kids to get into pre-school," she said. She also spoke of raising the minimum wage because a family with two-working parents who can't be home with their children make it harder for them to encourage and teach them when they're young. She emphasized that policies were one thing, but human relationships trumped any policy. She stressed "social capital" and relationships as the most important piece to the puzzle of bringing more diversity into the workforce. She also suggested that the big sprawling corporate campuses with free food and amenities isolated workers from the real world. "No offense," she said in jest to Nilka, from Google, but in order for tech to survive in the long run, the workers have to get out of the "sprawling, soul-less campuses." 

Kimberly Bryant brought up the important issue of paycheck parity when it came to women and men. She stressed that until that question was addressed, we wouldn't see gender parity in the workplace. Even though she is from San Francisco, she moved her organization to Oakland because, as she put it, it's "much more brown" in the East Bay.

Lisa Lee talked about how Pandora doesn't have a cafeteria with free food and drinks. Rather, the culture there is one of supporting the locals. The absence of free food was designed to encourage workers to eat at the local restaurants and mix with the locals. 

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Pandora, the leading internet radio service, gives people music they love
anytime, anywhere, through a wide variety of connected devices: laptop and
desktop computers, smartphones, connected BluRay players, connected TVs,
etc. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single “seed” –
a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project®, a deeply
detailed, hand-built musical taxonomy, powers the personalization or
Pandora. Using this musicological “DNA” and constant listener feedback
Pandora crafts personalized stations from the more than 800,000 songs that
have been analyzed since the project began in January 2000.
More than 75 million people throughout the United States listen to
personalized radio stations for free on Pandora through their PCs, mobile
phones and devices such as the iPad, and connected in-house devices
ranging from TVs to set-top boxes to Blu-Ray players. Mobile technology has
been a significant factor in the growth and popularity of Pandora, starting
with the introduction of the Apple app store for the iPhone in the summer of
2008. Pandora instantly became one of the most top downloaded apps and
today, according to Nielsen, is one of the top five most popular apps across
all smartphone platforms.

Pandora is free, simple and, thanks to connectivity, available everywhere
consumers are – at the office, at home, in the car and all points in between.
In 2009 the Company announced that Pandora would be incorporated into
the dashboard in Ford cars via SYNC technology; GM has already followed in
announcing plans to integrate Pandora into its vehicles and Mercedes-Benz
introduced their Media Interface Plus device that works with the
free Pandora iPhone app to provide direct control of Pandora from in-dash
stereo controls. This was all great news for the millions of Pandora listeners
who had been plugging their smartphones into car dashboards to listen to
personalized stations while driving. More than 50 percent of radio listening
happens in the car, making it a crucial arena for Pandora.

Today tens of millions of people have a deeply personal connection with
Pandora based on the delight of personalized radio listening and discovery.
These highly engaged listeners reinforce the value Pandora provides to: 1)
musicians, who have found in Pandora a level playing field on which their
music has a greater chance of being played than ever before; 2) advertisers,
who benefit from the multi-platform reach of Pandora, as well as its best
practices in targeting consumers for specific campaigns; 3) the music
industry, which has found in Pandora a highly effective distribution channel;
and 4) automobile and consumer electronics device manufacturers, who have
noted that incorporating Pandora into their product makes it more valuable
to consumers.

Pandora continues to focus on its business in the United States. The radio
arena has never been hotter, thanks to technology that enables radio to be
personalized to the individual and more accessible than ever before. Right
now millions of people listen to Pandora in the United States and we hope
someday to bring Pandora to billions of people around the world.

• 2000 – Tim Westergren’s Music Genome Project begins.
• 2005 – Pandora launches on the web.
• 2008 – Pandora app becomes one of the most consistently downloaded
apps in the Apple store.
• 2009 – Ford announces Pandora will be incorporated into car
dashboard. Alpine and Pioneer begin selling aftermarket radios that
connect to consumers’ iPhones and puts the control and command of
Pandora into the car dashboard.
• 2010 – Pandora is present on more than 200 connected consumer
electronics devices ranging from smartphones to TVs to set-top boxes
to Blu-ray players and is able to stream visual, audio, and interactive
advertising to computers, smartphones, iPads, and in-home connected

Kapor Center for Social Impact

Angel group/VC

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The Kapor Center for Social Impact relentlessly pursues creative strategies that will leverage information technology for positive social impact. We primarily work with underrepresented communities, focusing on gap-closing endeavors.




Freada Kapor Klein

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As a Partner at Kapor Capital, Freada Kapor Klein, Ph.D. invests in women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color whose tech startups aspire to generate economic value and positive social impact.

Evie Nagy

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Staff Writer at FastCompany, former editor at Billboard and Rolling Stone, author of 33 1/3 book on Devo's Freedom of Choice, coming May 2015.

nilka thomas

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