Diversity is a hot topic in tech, and it’s obvious why: it seems to progress at a snail’s pace.
Despite research that indicates tech companies with diverse leadership are more successful, white men continue to dominate the field. Women only occupy 26% of all tech jobs, and the myth that Silicon Valley is a meritocracy—where the most qualified and skilled candidates prosper—persists.
Meet Project Include
Project Include, a non-profit recently formed by eight female tech veterans, is striving to change the status quo. Co-founders Erica Joy Baker, Bethanye McKinney Blount, Tracy Chou, Laura I. Gómez, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Freada Kapor Klein, Ellen Pao, and Susan Wu started Project Include to make diversity in the tech industry a reality. They are experienced engineers, entrepreneurs, angel investors, and startup advisors whose vision is to prioritize inclusion, comprehensiveness, and accountability in the diversification of tech. They advocate measurable results and meaningful impact.
One company at a time
The nonprofit also works directly with companies to implement change. Last June, Project Include created two initiatives—Startup Include and VC Include—to test and implement inclusive strategies at startups and venture capital firms, respectively. Out of more than 100 companies, the nonprofit selected 11 startups and 15 venture capital firms, including Airbnb, Patreon, Kapor Capital, and Upfront.
Project Include targets startups of 25 to 2,500 employees in order to introduce best practices at an early stage of company development. As they continue to work with these companies, they intend to regularly publish their progress and create a consistent and intersectional standard for metrics. Available on the site now are two from the initial pool of companies—Twilio, a cloud communication platform, and Clef, a user account authentication and security system.
It starts with the CEO
The team at Project Include use a top-down method, concentrating on proactive CEO and managerial involvement to integrate inclusion in company culture, policy and operations. While this may seem like a tall order, Project Include breaks down the process into manageable categories and specific actions. The recommendations range from instituting mentoring programs and rethinking traditional interview practices to being transparent with metrics and setting goals for leadership, the board, and investors.
The nonprofit also provides case studies about the underrepresented, detailing workplace scenarios and the appropriate actions to take. These resources are all offered under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, allowing anyone and everyone to utilize and build upon their data and expertise.
“Ultimately, we want this to be a positive and collaborative effort — no shaming, just showing what data-driven progress can look like,” wrote Freada Kapor Klein after the Startup Include and VC Include nominees had been selected. “And if/when we see success, we plan to scale our efforts across the industry.” Through collaboration, transparency, and an intersectional approach, we all may just get there together.
To learn more about Project Include’s mission and recommendations for creating an inclusive tech company, check out their website.