Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

What does DEI really mean for Baltimore tech? Waterfront Tech Series will discuss on April 6

A Q&A with the event series' founder, Laura Gaworecki.

Baltimore's Inner Harbor and skyline at night

(Photo by Flicker user Austin Kirk)

This article appears as part of a media partnership between Technical.ly and the Waterfront Tech Series.
It can be hard to talk about what the terms diversity, equity and inclusion actually mean in the tech industry because those terms are a catchall for so many goals.

Is it about one-to-one sensitivity training? Is it about addressing company-level issues of retention by cultivating a work environment that doesn’t push out diverse talent? Does the onus fall on an entire industry to bolster a diverse talent pipeline? Even technical products can be biased in their application. All of that can fall under the DEI umbrella.

The 40-member coalition Baltimore Tracks which is committed to improving racial equity in the local tech community, hired a consultancy firm last year to conduct a DEI report and give a snapshot of the city’s challenges. Through the self-reporting of its at-the-time 19 member orgs, the findings came out to this: Local tech workers are 67% white, 14% Asian and 7% Black. Contrast that to the city as a whole, which is 32% white, 3% Asian and 63% Black, per the latest US Census data. The discrepancy here speaks to what DEI work tries to correct — creating some parity between the tech industry demographics and the city that houses and, through tax breaks and grants, at times supports the industry.

Also addressing these issues is the Waterfront Tech Series, returning with its 14th edition (aka episode) focused on diversity, equity and inclusion on Wednesday, April 6. Four panelists will talk about the impact DEI can have on tech companies and how the tech industry in Baltimore can better include those left out.

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Laura Gaworecki, the series’ founder who will facilitate the DEI conversation alongside these pros:

  • John Foster, COO of Fearless
  • Margia Argüello, senior manager of business development in the Office of Life Sciences at the Maryland Department of Commerce
  • April Christina Curley, engagement and partnerships manager at the Last Mile Education Fund
  • Tony Gross, SVP of agency leasing at JLL’s Port Covington branch

The event will take place at Inner Harbor’s Fogo de Chão from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. EST.

Register for the Waterfront Tech Series

Technical.ly asked Gaworecki about the Waterfront Tech Series’ evolution and the importance of DEI. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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Technical.ly: How has the series changed over the years?

Laura Gaworecki: We started out as a cheerleader, of sorts, for the local Baltimore tech landscape. I used to say a lot, “We don’t need to go to Silicon Valley, we have it all going on right here — the Inner Harbor, close proximity to NYC, Philly, DC, coworking spaces, tech hubs, hackathons, nonprofits, healthcare, higher ed. We have it all going on right here!

As the word spread and people joined, I got asked a lot, “Who is the event for?” True backend developers? yes. Business development folks and marketing? Yes. Business owners and C-level folks? Yes. Startups and entrepreneurs? Yes.

I knew my vision was far, far greater than just an event where we talk about tech in general. Let’s dig deeper. So I started to get companies commissioning me to do entire events for them that were key to their own business models, like Offit Kurman did [a blockchain event] back in 2017 under Jim Ries and Bryan Lawson’s leadership. We have done two edtech [events] with Dr. Kevin Frick and Corinne Brassfield leading the way at, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Kaiser Permanente’s Gracelyn McDermott was presenting sponsor of our first-ever healthtech [event] that we will revisit in 2023, and LiteCloud purchased the first-ever smart city event in 2018.

A highlight in my career thus far has been landing Microsoft as a client when I was commissioned to put on “Women in Cyber” at Pitango here in Fells Point in 2019 just before COVID hit. The ROI for Microsoft was not dollar bills, but they asked me to find local minority and women tech talent in this area that would be a good fit for the cybersecurity industry. We were in talks to continue that model on a global level when COVID hit.

The panel at Waterfront Tech Series’ Oct. 20, 2021 event. (Courtesy photo)

Why is DEI important for organizations in the tech industry? 

The long and the short is that we have a unique opportunity as leaders in this city to create a culture where we use tech to help all people succeed with the correct resources including Wi-Fi, jobs, safety, transportation, healthcare. It affects all of us, and we cannot leave any person or community behind, lest we are doomed to repeat the past all over again. We have a huge opportunity to make tech work for us, better our wellness, and lifestyles now, for a better Baltimore here and now, and for our baby dolls of the future.

It starts at home, and continues at your place of work. We need all parents, all teachers, all employers in the know on DEI — how you define it, measure it, create it, and stay accountable to it. Then I guarantee your product gets stealthier, more useful, better executed, and in essence your ROI or bottom line should increase due to such shifts in workforce culture. And it is a necessary shift for the human race to succeed for the next 100 years.

Also, coming off the “Women in Cyber” [event] by Microsoft gave me a real, tangible way to use my skills in people, events, and recruiting to craft an event to bring leaders and talent together to talk on what needs to happen in our city with the people, partnerships, and how we use tech so that we can not only survive in Baltimore city, but can thrive.

What’s next for The Waterfront Tech series? What do you see being episode 15 or 16?

Up next we have Waterfront Tech Series episode 15, “Transportation Tech,” presented by KCI and led by Deirdre Crawl, in either late September or early October. And this December we will be doing our first ever #THEMOXIES, “A Celebration Of Women In Tech & Innovation,” at Tricerat’s new HQ at 1600 W. 41st. St., where we will honor some local women heroes!

Register for the Waterfront Tech Series


Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-
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