Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Approximately a year and a half ago the Portland Development Commission worked with a group of technology companies in our area to sign what is called the Tech Diversity Pledge. They called out FIVE Actions that they envisioned would move companies towards Racial and Gender Diversity.
Women in Portland and across the country have been working relentlessly to shift culture in technology companies in order to create a working space where we all can thrive. We have known that diverse women in leadership positions means better designed and produced products.
Design + Culture Lab has been contracted to evaluate our city's progress towards these goals via the PDC. The report is called the Techtown Diversity Pledge Annual Report. It is anticipated it will be released to the public this Spring. We are anxious to learn from this report and ready to dive deeper into the work.
Vox Siren approached Jared from the PDC about our Super: Women in Tech Live Storytelling event last Fall. Jared and team were excited to become sponsors of our event.
We sat down with Jared and asked him about the powerhouse women in our area and why diversity is better for business.
Who are some women in tech that you respect in the PDX area?
In male-dominated tech I admire all women in the industry, and I’m particularly impressed with women who have overcome barriers and continue to do so while also serving vital roles. I have the good fortune to work with many women in tech who have positively impacted my work. Some of the stand-outs are Monica Enand and Ilana Davis at Zapproved, Laura Stepp of Jama, Elizabeth Robillard of Lytics, Abby Miles and Sarah Nanbu at OpenSesame, Krista Van Veen at ThinkShout, Sarah Olbekson at inDinero and Theresa Hilinski at Technology Association of Oregon.
We created a Super: STEM women coloring book that have modern and historical women in the field? Do you have a woman you admire, look up to in science, engineering, technology or mathematics?
Three historical figures come to mind: Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, and Sally Ride. My mom is a high school math teacher and raised three kids as a single mother so I have a ton of admiration for her.
What is the most diverse team you have worked on? What did diversity bring to the end product?
I have two answers to this.First, I grew up in North Carolina and went to a diverse high school where I played sports. Our school district diversity was more than skin deep; it ranged from the inner city to rural areas where some of my classmates worked on the farm before they came to class. My sophomore year, our basketball team was half white guys and half black guys. We were supposed to be good, but we were 1-4 and about to play the best team in the city. Our African-American coach benched our four best players before the game, and we ended up winning on a shot at the buzzer. I still remember everyone jumping on the kid who made the shot and the locker room after. We kept the same starting lineup the rest of the year and only lost two more times. I give a lot of credit to our coach for making it clear that the only thing that mattered was our performance around the shared goal. I have no doubt the commonality among us and our shared pursuit of a goal was a major contributor to our success.
Second is the work environment at PDC, which has the most female-male diversity I’ve experienced professionally. The culture is welcoming, people share opinions, and we focus on getting the work done right. Our mission is to create economic growth and opportunity, which is the foundation of my work on the diversity pledge. The pledge and the actions we are taking are a direct result of the diverse set of people involved.
What excites you about the future of the tech industry in PDX?
For the past 30 years Portland has solved problems with progressive solutions, which often means we do things differently than other places. I’m excited about continuing that tradition in tech, which has become such a part of our lives. We have real opportunities to use tech to address civic issues more effectively and make money by doing so. Companies like Moovel are the tip of the smart cities’ iceberg.
Additionally, the strongest tech products and services utilize network effects, so the broader the appeal the better the outcome. I contend that companies with diverse teams are able to better understand and appeal to more potential customers, and will have a competitive advantage. Given our increasingly diverse population, the importance of connecting with that diverse consumer base is growing. Many in Portland tech already understand this business case for diversity. When coupled with our willingness to do things differently, I’m really excited about Portland Tech leading the nation on diversifying the workforce.
Are there any women entrepreneurs that we should be looking out for?
Two of the most impressive entrepreneurs I have worked with in Portland are Paige Hendrix Buckner and Lynn Le. Both are Startup Weekend and Startup PDX Challenge alums, relentless workers, passionate and compassionate. Paige and Lynn seek out feedback and actively listen to advice from others but do not act on everything they hear. They know how to build product and sell it, and how to build a team.
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