In 2015, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich made a public pledge at CES in Vegas to invest $300 million to increase diversity within the company and the tech industry at large as he recognises the business benefits. By 2020 the goal is for Intel’s workforce to be representative of the working population. Which makes sense right? You want to be in markets where your staff understand and relate to the very customers you are serving. It has great business benefits as it invites a diversity of thought to the conversation. Different thinking leads to different solutions!
Measurement and accountability are key for inclusion initiatives like this to work. Intel publish a yearly report called Decoded Diversity, to transparently share how they are failing or succeeding. They have also raised a $125 million fund to invest in founders from diverse backgrounds such as Brit Morin from Brit + Co.
People love coming to work and showing up as their full selves when they feel included and culturally aligned to the mission of the organisation. Innovation must come from everyone and be for everyone. London for example is such a melting pot for multiculturalism. Tottenham, where I grew up is one of the most diverse wards in Europe with over 60 languages spoken by over 200 nationalities. Imagine the different approaches to problem solving in the workplace if it represented this? Take myself for example, public school educated, never got an A working alongside Private school educated straight A Lisa… the collaboration could lead to new and different solutions to problems.
However the gap exists currently because ecosystems have not been nurtured to tailor stories, recruitment, education and training for people from under represented communities. The gap starts in early childhood education in schools and grows from there. Without early access to tech and relevant role models, kids in under served communities are marginalised and less likely to be interested in tech to begin with. As they grow, even if they do become interested in tech, if they are not fortunate enough to travel to San Francisco or attend an elite school, there is a low probability that they will work and feel at home in tech as there is a false meritocracy.
If you can see it, you can be it — Wayne Sutton
The stories kids need to know is about how Nasir “Nas” Jones grew up hustling on the streets of Queensbridge in New York. He released a classic album called illmatic in 1994 and blew up as a Hip-Hop artist. What many don’t know is that Nas sits on the board of Queensbridge Venture Partners and has invested in billion dollar successful startups like Dropbox, Lyft and Genius. This is an example of a ‘relevant role model’ and the kinds of inclusive stories we can tell to inspire young people to get into tech and deconstruct the journey of people like Nas from the ghetto to VC investor.
The truth is, the reality, the struggles and the challenges faced by young people from low opportunity communities is different and that is why a one size fits all approach won’t do. Over the next few weeks, I will share stories about how the US market is striving forward with tech inclusion stories to inspire and create awareness as well as access for people from diverse backgrounds. The reason the Endz don’t care about tech is because it is not inclusive, the Endz lack awareness and access to:
- training in entrepreneurship
- a network of ex-entrepreneurs, startups and investors they can relate to
- access to capital
PART 2 of this series can be found here: From Rap to Startup Investor: Nas
Words by Andy Ayim