After leadership shakeup, here's what will change at PSL's Diversity Dinner - Technical.ly Philly

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Oct. 23, 2017 12:57 pm

After leadership shakeup, here’s what will change at PSL’s Diversity Dinner

Event organizer Brigitte Daniel detailed some changes to the layout of the evening.

A shot from last year's event, at South Philly's Bok.

(Courtesy photo)

Amid a heated discussion with Yuval Yarden, then–executive director of Philly Startup Leaders, Tayyib Smith let off a litany on demands on tech diversity:

“It’s not about how people feel, it’s not about discussions: it’s about transformation and change,” Tayyib said before the audience at the controversial Black & Brown Founders panel earlier this month. “We need a Marshall plan, we need a new New Deal.”

The founder’s demands caused ripples: Yarden resigned a couple of days later. The shakeup was announced by PSL President Bob Moore alongside a slate of changes geared at boosting transparency and diversity within the 10-year-old organization.

With its second annual Diversity Dinner happening in only a couple of days, you better believe the discussion was reframed. Mogulette founder Brigitte Daniel, who is co-organizing the dinner with PSL, told Technical.ly in an email that community accountability is key.

“Because a new light has been shed on this topic, along with the important stakeholders who will be in the room (Mayor James Kenney, [Comcast’sDavid Cohen, Commerce Director Harold Epps, PSL Board) the opportunity to make change and move the dial is greater than it has ever been,” said Daniel.

This time around, after opening remarks from the guest speakers, the room will break into smaller groups to tackle “Our Road To Progress Discussion Topics.” Here’s the lineup:

  • Diversifying the Pipeline (K–12 and Beyond)
  • Increasing Underrepresentation at Tech Companies (Equal Employment Opportunity Percentages)
  • Innovation Blindspots (Funding the Overlooked)
  • Normalization of Diversity (Unconscious Bias Training and Mentoring)
  • Organizational Diversity (Changing the Table Stakes)

Table leaders will meet afterwards to compile the night’s findings and suggestions for actionable steps forward, and those will be released publicly and on the record. (The discussions themselves are off the record for journalists, and are being encouraged to be thought of as safe spaces.)

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“We acknowledge that recent events may have created concern about such risks, but this dinner is a not a panel or a platform,” Daniel said. “It is a community conversation with the goal of creating actionable steps to create progress in the inclusiveness of our city’s tech scene.”

So what’s the change?

Last year’s talk followed a similar format: speeches, breakout sessions, recaps. One big change was announced by Moore along with Yarden’s departure: the organization will be represented at the event by board member Prasanna Krishnan, a woman entrepreneur of color.

The challenge for the org will be what comes after the talk is had, after the wine is poured and the truths spoken. Daniel offers a few likely suggestions on what that may look like:

  • The City of Philadelphia might create a Tech Advisory Council to focus on outcomes derived from the event.
  • Corporations and startups can volunteer to release their Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) percentages to see what work needs to be done.
  • PSL “can make actual steps to diversify their Board,” Daniel said, “and engage more startups currently outside of their core community.”

Should be quite a night.

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