November 28, 2018, by Sekinah Brodie
About a month ago, PSL approached Penji and offered us the opportunity to sponsor their Diversity Dinner and podcast live from the event. I had the chance to interview over 20 of the brightest minds in the startup community. They spoke about their perspectives on diversity, inclusion, and creating progression in the workplace.
My goal for this episode was to not only capture great content for the show, but to interact with people from all walks of life striving towards similar goals. Penji is located right across the bridge from Philadelphia, which is one of the tech hubs of the country.
I wanted to share the story of this diverse community and how it plays a role in the progression of tech as a whole. As a background, Philadelphia has over 1.58 million people. The city is made up of a mixture of different races, religions, and backgrounds. Much of that melting pot was represented at this event and you will hear that during this episode. Listen here!
During the event I asked 3 questions that I knew would tie this amazing story together:
– What does diversity mean to you?
– How can we implement diversity into the workplace?
– How can you be a voice for marginalized people?
At first, it was pretty difficult to get people comfortable enough to speak publicly about diversity. However, as we continued to search, some organic conversations were born from these 3 simple questions. These conversations left me optimistic that although we have a long road ahead of us, many of us are committed to taking the journey.
After finding out the basis of what diversity meant to my guests I wanted to expand on these answers. It’s one thing to identify what we should be doing. But how can we implement these ideas? My guests had some great ideas for solutions on how to create progression in the workplace and community in general.
Some of these ideas included incorporating technology into education, building diverse teams, and creating diverse hiring practices. To wrap up the night, I got the chance to talk with the two leading ladies: Kiera Smalls and Brigitte Daniel. None of these words are valuable if there is no action put behind them.
” We need to continue to have the conversations, the hard conversations, the good conversations. Showing up to events like PSL’s diversity dinner, supporting macro and micro activities and realizing that this is everyone’s issue. The local level includes working with our government on policies as well as our great community organizations.
Identifying folks that have funding opportunities and making sure our cities have access to them. How can we learn best practices so that our entrepreneurs don’t have to go at their journey alone. We have to ensure that we all have access to some best practices and resources in order to help each other. ” – Kiera
All in all, this night was amazing. Hearing so many different perspectives on diversity, how we can make changes? The actions to take next inspired me greatly. Going into this experience I didn’t know what to expect. Not only did I learn a lot from the conversations, but also from the experience in itself. Special thanks to all the guests that allowed me to interview them including: Ben Barnett, Yanlexis Arizaga, Stephanie Guzman, Jackson Steger, Amy Scheel, and Will Toms. We also want to thank Philly Startup Leaders for the opportunity and we look forward to next year!
Kiera Smalls on Representation: ” Representation is important. I’ve been in a lot of spaces where I was the only one, whether it was the only woman or the only person of color. And when you don’t see people who look like you, then you don’t think it’s for you. You’re not able to operate at your best because you’re so focused on trying to assimilate or figure out a best way to contribute without sticking out like a sore thumb.
Our representation is important so that we can create spaces for individuals to feel comfortable and confident in what they’re contributing. They will see other people like them around to either cheer them on or show them that anything is possible and support them along the way.”
Allie Steranko on being a voice for marginalized people: “It’s not something that I’ve thought of too much. If that’s something that you strive to be or you find yourself in just be true to who you are and be authentic. Make sure that you’re not sacrificing your identity in order to achieve a wider audience. Being authentic will be a better benefit for society in general.”
What diversity means to me: “Diversity means acceptance, responsibility, authenticity, and representing those without a voice. Including others despite differences, and recognizing that those differences make us stronger. Every single person is created in a unique way for a purpose.
In order for us to find this purpose and operate at our highest levels, we have to let go of irrational fear of the unknown, prejudice, stereotypes, and embrace acceptance. Diversity is not just a trendy buzzword, but a lifestyle choice that starts within each of us.”
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