TAO Acts to Advance Diversity and Inclusion

Since its inception in 2016, TechTown’s Diversity Pledge has not only had Technology Association of Oregon (TAO) as a signatory, but an advocate for thinking about diversity a little differently than just tracking hiring data. As an organization that works to promote a diverse workforce, we know the recruitment piece is vital. However, as a small company, TAO understands that our impact on the tech community is in our voice and not exclusively on those that we hire to work with or for us.

As TechTown has evolved over the years, we decided to take a different approach in Fall 2017, by committing to KPIs that we thought would not only bring diverse voices to our 80+ events that we host, but also serve as a connector between community organizations we already work with, and the tech companies we serve.

This landed us with the following goals as we pondered what change would look like over a one year period:

  • Create and share a diversity and equity statement
  • Set a minimum of 30% diverse voices on stage for TAO programming over a 12-month period
  • Reach a goal of 6,000 attendees among TAO programming with the revised diversity commitment
  • Attend 75% or more of Diversity Pledge meetings and events
  • Partner with at least four community organizations that serve underrepresented populations with the objective of utilizing their expertise to help our tech companies and increasing diverse attendance at TAO programs
  • Provide discount, or comp tickets through community partners for TAO programming

As our statewide team of 9 worked away at tackling program diversity, our board, led by President and CEO Skip Newberry and Chair Monica Enand took notice. ‘It was imperative that as our team strived to reach our diversity and equity goals in our programming, that the leadership of the organization, all of whom are highly visible in the community, also embraced these priorities.’ said Skip Newberry. With several board openings on the horizon mid-year in 2018, our leaders had an opportunity to expand their efforts on diversifying our board. Diversity has long been a priority for the nominations and governance committee of the TAO Board, and it has worked more recently to ensure that new voices brought onto the board were diverse in their representation.

The (four) new candidates introduced as TAO Board candidates this summer were all female, which brought our overall board diversity to 56%. This is something we are proud of, but is also just one piece of the diversity, equity and inclusion puzzle. With a strong Executive Committee led by Monica Enand, our Board is consistently hosting discussions at board meetings on topics like ally skills and what it means to have privilege. ‘Seeing more diverse faces in our board meetings is one step, but I strive to lead this board to have intense, challenging discussions that arm them with new ideas about change they can take back to their companies and which will have an impact on our broader community’, said Monica.

While change can seem slow, it’s incredibly powerful to see what is beyond those percentages and hiring numbers. Our strong community doesn’t look solely at numbers and think the work is done. Whether it’s executives or individual contributors – our community is collectively working together asking the question – What more can we do?. Many companies have tackled change through offering ally skills training, lunch & learns on fostering inclusivity or revised onboarding to include unconscious bias training. Others have focused their efforts on supporting non profits serving underrepresented communities and re-thinking recruiting efforts using just referrals. We are proud and excited about the unique ways in which each (TechTown) company within the tech community chooses, and works towards, changing our regional workforce diversity challenges.

At TAO we know our impact goes beyond a percentage and is more about ensuring our companies have the resources and connections to bring about positive change – for their business and for our community. As we continue to participate and support TechTown, we look forward to seeing each of those companies personalize their goals around D, E & I efforts.

This story was authored by Theresa Jelderks, Chief of Staff and VP of Programs at the Technology Association of Oregon

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Portland tech companies have joined the Diversity & Inclusion Pledge since its initial launch in 2015.

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