When Rakia Reynolds first started out in the media industry, she felt alone.
The founder and president of PR firm Skai Blue Media said she taught herself everything she needed to know — since there weren’t that many woman she identified with, women she could turn to.
“It is my duty as a trailblazer and as someone who has been an industry disrupter, to give back to the community while also making sure I’m holding people accountable,” said Reynolds on a panel about why diversity matters in tech hosted by the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) Philadelphia at Franklin Square Capital Partners during Philly Tech Week 2016 presented by Comcast.
Reynolds, who’s also the events chair of the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, believes that diversity is not just a black and white issue.
“We have to be inclusive of all populations including Asian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities,” she said.
Reynolds and her fellow panelists identified key behaviors and rules they believe that employees and employers should follow in order to create a diverse and inclusive environment.
Here are some highlights from the event:
- Reynolds believes that companies must not only hire diverse employees but must also “make a succession plan and set longterm goals,” in order to keep a diverse staff.
- In order to steer clear of discrimination, Reynolds said, “Companies should hire a third-party consulting agency or firm to write their job descriptions.” This way, women and people of color aren’t discouraged by the language being used.
- Melina Marshall, executive VP and publications director at the New York City-based Center for Talent Innovation, believes that when it comes to diversity, it’s a two-way street. Throughout her years of working with companies on diversity, Marshall learned how employees can rephrase and change the language they use to make diversity sound more attractive to company CEOs. Marshall believes that the best way to get a company to be more open to diversity and inclusion is by “repackaging diversity and innovation and focusing on how it positively impacts a company’s bottom line.”
- Cofounder of YIKES Inc and an instructor at Girl Develop It, Tracy Levesque said companies should beware of unconscious name biases. Levesque used the story of her friend to drive her point. “My coworker Carlos was putting out all these resumes and was not hearing back,” she said, “so he decided to write ‘Carl’ instead of ‘Carlos’ and the same places that he sent his resumes to called him back.”
- Startup companies and organizations that were created because of the lack of diversity in the tech field include: New York-based remote recruiting firm Powertofly and local groups like Ladies that UX Philadelphia, #TechinColor, Girl Develop It, YIKES Inc and The ITEM.