August 8, 2019
The following is a success story provided by TechTown Pledge Company, Learning.com
In early 2017, Learning.com took a big step toward accountability for the underrepresentation of women and people of color in Portland’s tech industry, as well as our own team. We have TechTown to thank for getting us on track.
Our value proposition and the support we provide our customers naturally align to a commitment of equity and inclusivity. Many of us spend our days thinking about how today’s youth will gain the future-ready skills needed for a life of prosperity. Knowing everyone’s future won’t be the same, our products teach students how technology can be a positive force in their lives, no matter where their path leads them or where they started.
We work to foster a culture that leads us to engage in causes for the community, be a support system for one another through tough times, and sponsor our colleagues to build new skill sets. Our secret sauce is how incredibly driven and compassionate our people are, and we like being a culture that deeply cares about the well-being of others. Ultimately, culture is a priority at Learning.com, and as we know, the key to having a successful commitment to achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
A lack in diversity isn’t unique to just Learning.com, but the solution is. We knew solving for this would be an ongoing journey, but we didn’t have a map.
Our first step was taken by a member of our Development team, Tom Mooney. Tom first gathered us together and started The Diversity Committee. It was on a volunteer basis, and, like other small companies, we juggled this along with the many hats we wear in our day jobs. We didn’t have a plan of action, a frame of reference, or fully understand what was possible. Nevertheless, we project managed our way to the committee’s first mission statement; struggles ensued.
In June 2017, we took the TechTown Diversity & Inclusion Pledge to formalize our commitment to DEI. Then, we were able to capture our diversity data and start thinking about setting some goals.
Come 2018, the committee opened up a leadership opportunity and we had our first chairperson, Katie Zink. With a background in Women and Gender Studies, as well as experience volunteering with and serving on committees for organizations like Raphael House, Oregon Tradeswomen, and Girls Inc, Katie whole-heartedly accepted the opportunity to lead us in this commitment.
As the committee chair, Katie works closely with HR to ensure we’re meeting our committee goals, and represent Learning.com at the TechTown Morning Action Committee (MAC) meetings.
After her first meeting, she thought, jackpot. This is our chance to meet others in Portland solving for the same issues. TechTown provided a sounding board and brave space to ask questions, express frustrations, and implement solutions.
Through partnering with TechTown, Learning.com was able to get the momentum we needed and set clear goals: show up for the community, elevate our culture, and educate our team.
Some of the goals TechTown posed to us were:
TechTown’s Allyshift trainings have been a helpful strategy for elevating our culture and bringing attention to our biases in the workplace. Our HR manager has gone through the training and has begun facilitating AllyShift trainings, too.
Inspired by ideas from other pledge companies, we sponsored a trip to the Oregon Historical Society for our employees this Spring to learn and acknowledge the history of the land, and what contributed to much of the racial disparity we still know in Portland today. You can’t know where you’re going, until you know where you’ve been, as they say.
Encouraging pledge companies to sponsor and volunteer with organizations also committed to DEI has been an excellent opportunity for local community involvement. We were pleased to sponsor organizations like ChickTech in their 2018 High School Kick Off and Careers in Tech Conference in partnership with ACT-W.
We also participated in the NW Youth Career Expo with the Portland Workforce Alliance. This was an opportunity for one on one conversations with students about how working in tech is fun, rewarding, and that you get to be yourself; aha moments ensued!
These events met our mission in more ways than one: show up for the youth in our local community and inspire young women to pursue careers in tech who may not have otherwise seen themselves with that potential.
With the momentum we gained, we’ve also created new Employee Resource Groups and programs including:
Finally, we’re in the process of implementing KPIs per the recommendation of TechTown to track the success of our commitment.
Recent Employee of the Month and avid participant of our volunteer program, Francisca Tedja, shared what’s important to her in a company culture, as well as some advice she’d give to future job seekers.
“I like working in a company where there is a culture of work/life balance and giving back to the community. Given that we spend most of our days at work, it is important to feel like we’re with an extended family. Feeling valued, respected, and encouraged by receiving the tools to reach full potential will not only benefit the individual, but those around us and the company as a whole. In summary, it is the culture at Learning.com.”
To those seeking future careers she advises, “your attitude determines your altitude.”
When employees feel valued, are set up for success, and are a part of something bigger than themselves, we see the attitudes, work ethic, and engagement that lead to success and innovation.
Fortunately, there’s a propulsion here in Portland to continue working for equity and inclusion in the Tech Industry, and TechTown PDX is breeding leaders of the charge.
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Learning.com provides K-12 solutions to help students, teachers, and schools excel in a digital world. Districts around the country equip their students with the digital literacy skills needed for online assessments, college, and the workforce using our award-winning curriculum and assessments. They support districts as they move to digital content with tools to build and share district-created digital curriculum.
TechTown PDX is a collection of Portland tech companies that are committed to cultivating a diverse, homegrown talent pipeline and inclusive work environment. We know that in order to make real change, we need to work together to have the difficult conversations to implement strategic programs and to push each other other to do what is right. That’s why each company has taken the TechTown Diversity Pledge and it’s 5 actions that requires collective focus, collaboration and accountability.
Portland tech companies have joined the Diversity & Inclusion Pledge since its initial launch in 2015.