By: Jared Karol
Speaking at last year’s Tech Inclusion Conference in San Francisco, Deldelp Medina, Director of Residency at Code2040, says the fact that a Tech Inclusion conference even exists is a sign that the tech industry is making progress with diversity and inclusion initiatives. “Five years ago, this conversation wasn’t even being had. [The conversation] is creating opportunity for all of us.”
Deldelp works with Black and LatinX entrepreneurs in residence across the US to help bring their company to the next level. One thing she’s noticed from working in different cities across the country is that diversity and inclusion looks different in each community. They each have their own flavor and demographic mix of people. As a result they each “need to have their own reaction to the question of diversity and inclusion. There is no one size fits all.”
So how should separate ecosystems go about addressing the diversity and inclusion challenges they face?
By clearly articulating what they need help with. Only by identifying what’s working and what’s not working will we start to see changes in systems and spaces where people are not feeling welcomed. That’s the conversation we need to be having: “What does ‘not welcomed’ mean to you?” Deldelp asks. “How does it impact your day-to-day life?”
This is a different conversation for people who aren’t the prototypical tech worker. Often folks who come from means don’t think about these questions — a job is a job is a job. But for others a job in tech is the difference between being able to lift your family out of poverty or not. Deldelp emphasizes, “When you’re a first generation college graduate working in the tech field and earning more money than anybody else in your family, it’s a different interaction you have with your job. The risk/reward piece is very different for folks of color in general.”
She says we need to create spaces where all people in tech feel safe and don’t feel like they’re taking a risk by speaking up. No one should feel uncomfortable voicing an opinion and saying, “hey, I don’t think we should do things this way.”
One way to change the conversation is to remove the word ‘minority’ from our conversations. As a Latina woman, Deldelp is the average Californian, and yet she’s still viewed as the minority in people’s minds. A demographic shift has already happened in California and many other parts of the country. “I don’t think [people] understand how much power we have. Regardless of our background, regardless of what skin color or tone we have, we are here and we’re citizens in this country. We have certain expectations on how opportunities are going to be doled out.”
When more and more people start to come from a place of power, Deldelp says, there will be a tremendous shift. “And this country has to accept that shift because otherwise economically it will not go well.” And this shift comes down to how people present themselves. Too often, she says, people from underrepresented groups come from a place of assimilation, and they have to deprogram themselves from that point of view.
She says you have to know how to talk about who you are and where you come from — that’s your advantage, not your disadvantage. “It’s a matter of knowing how to flip it and where to flip it. Letting people understand that your background is essential to you being a great tech worker.”
It is that individual and collective sense of ownership that will be the catalyst for inclusive change in the tech industry.
Listen to the full podcast with Deldelp Medina here or below.
About Change Catalyst:
Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation — through events, consulting, research and training.
Our Tech Inclusion programs explore and develop innovative solutions to tech diversity and inclusion.
Our Startup Ecosystem programs help underrepresented entrepreneurs and investors to start, scale and fund worldchanging businesses.
Change Catalyst is a Certified B Corp, winning the “Best for the World” award for community impact in 2014 and “Best in the World” overall in 2015.