Fireside Chat with David Drummond of Alphabet: How Data Combined with a Mindset Change Will Lead to More Diversity in Tech
By Jared Karol
Nearly three decades ago, when David Drummond, Senior Vice President Of Corporate Development for Alphabet, first came out of law school and joined a firm that worked with startup companies, there weren’t a lot of people who looked like him in Silicon Valley. This was an obvious issue because when people are used to working with people who look like them, they make assumptions about those who don’t — like the time when David was leading a meeting full of attorneys and someone came in and immediately went to a white male junior associate thinking he was in charge.
This was just one of the fascinating stories David shared last October at San Francisco’s 2016 Tech Inclusion Conference when he sat down with Mary Grove, Director of Google for Entrepreneurs, for a fireside chat. Their conversation covered a broad range of topics, including how David first met Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the evolution of the technology industry in the U.S. and around the world, and the ongoing fight to keep the internet open and free. They also talked about the progress Google and other tech companies are making to break through powerful barriers in diversity and inclusion.
Part of that breakthrough stems from when companies began releasing diversity data. Google was one of the first, but the internal conversation was not a straightforward one, according to David. There was some reluctance initially because the team was concerned about being opened up to criticism, but in the end the value of transparency prevailed. It was more important to get the data out there and let the world crowdsource the issue than it was to sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t exist.
Getting these conversations (and the data) out in the open in a very public way is incredibly important because of the pervasive influence that unconscious bias plays on our decision-making. When people are used to things being a certain way, they tend to pattern match, which then perpetuates the inertia of the status quo. But having open conversations about uncomfortable topics forces people to reflect on how their decisions can have a real negative impact on folks.
This is especially crucial for people in power — who are for the most part white men — if we want them to change their behavior. David says we need to move away from making snap judgments based on stereotypes and start taking the time to figure out what’s real.
And, moving forward, it is this mindset change, driven and measured by data, that is going to lead to real progress. We need to be willing to examine the way we do things — to look at cycles and programs and see how we can reduce the barriers to positive change.
“We need to get past the notion of ‘If I need to change something, that means what I was doing before was racist or sexist.’ Sometimes things have unintended consequences. We need to figure out if this is happening and do something about it”.
The data will show us when we’re making progress. Now we just need to be willing to put in the hard work to get there.
Watch full fireside chat 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.
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