Women of Color in Tech: Engaging Male Allies

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Digital Diversity Network received a warm and enthusiastic welcome for its first-ever Seattle event on May 8th as more than 100 tech professionals from academia and companies including, Amazon, Boeing, Deloitte, Google, Karat, Limeade, Microsoft, Salesforce, Turner, Warner Media/HBO, and more, converged at the HBO office in downtown Seattle for a networking reception and panel discussion themed, Women of Color in Tech:  Engaging Male Allies.

The Seattle market was ripe for a conversation around tech diversity and specifically, one that provided strategies for removing the barriers to advancement for women of color in the industry.  Men were also included in the conversation to help define actions for forging gender partnerships and creating a more inclusive workplace.

The panel was moderated by Monica Pool Knox, Head of Global Talent Optimization at Microsoft and featured the following presenters:

  • Angela Chen, Director of Database Platform Engineering, Warner Media/HBO
  • Matt Fleckenstein, Senior Director, Mixed Reality, Microsoft
  • Dr. Laura Hamill, Chief People Officer, Limeade & Chief Science Officer, Limeade Institute
  • Sharon Harris, VP, Alliance Relationships, Google Marketing Platform Alliance, Deloitte Consulting LLP
  • Scott Moran, Director, Application Development, Warner Media/HBO
  • Chandreyi Saha Davis, Head of Brand & Mass Advertising, Amazon Retail & Brand Purpose, Amazon

The panelists offered the following advice for women of color:

  • You need someone to open up spaces for you to be noticed.
  • You need allies to have the conversations you can’t have.
  • Be open to who can be an ally. It does not always have to be a person of influence.  It could be someone who works for an influencer or someone who can influence the influencer.
  • Mentoring is an honor.  Just ask.  People are always willing to help others learn and grow.  Tell the mentor what you need.
  • Relationships are important. If people get to know you and see you in different environments, they are less likely to adopt stereotypes. 
  • Have the courage to have the hard conversations. Stand up for yourself and stay true to who you are.
  • Don’t let people off the hook. We have to be okay with sitting with the discomfort.  People of color often feel that they have to resolve situations immediately to make the majority feel comfortable. 
  • Bring people into the conversation instead of taking them out. Remove the emotion.
  • Know your own self-worth. Your ally will pick up on that and help push you forward.
  • Be a participant in your own rescue. You have the power to change your own situation.

They also offered the following advice for men who aspire to be allies:

  • You need to be conscious of your privilege.
  • Stop the meeting and pause to give someone who is being overlooked the space to be noticed.

And, in true HBO fashion, everyone was urged to watch Game of Thrones to learn how to navigate corporate politics!