Philly Startup Leaders president Bob Moore announced Saturday, in a letter posted to the PSL Slack, that executive director Yuval Yarden stepped down from her role on Thursday.
“On Tuesday, our Executive Director exemplified behavior and made statements on a panel at the Black & Brown Founders Conference that were disappointing, inappropriate and unacceptable,” the statement, signed by Moore and chairman Rick Nucci, read. “We are sorry. While the statements do not represent the values of our organization, the fact that this occurred at all is a reflection of our poor efforts around diversity and inclusion. We have serious work to do. Now.”
Yarden, who became the org’s first full-time employee in March 2016, had come under fire on social media and Philly tech backchannel talk this week after a tense panel discussion at the Black & Brown Founders conference Tuesday.
“Right now in this conversation I feel really uncomfortable, because this is really difficult,” said a visibly distraught Yarden in response to Tayyib Smith’s blunt criticism of the organization’s performance. “It’s extremely difficult because with everything I do to be helpful, the response is that I don’t get it.”
In a text to Technical.ly, Yarden declined to immediately comment on her departure.
Everyone texting me about yesterday with that wretched child / pic.twitter.com/rK6TqKT91O
— Tayyib (@215tayyib) October 12, 2017
Webjunto’s Liz Brown, who was on the same panel, had similar qualms with PSL’s approach to the issue of diversity in tech.
“Though I don’t agree with how Tayyib expressed himself on the panel, I had personally provided very similar concerns and feedback to Yuval and her team a couple of weeks ago,” said Brown in an email to Technical.ly. “At the Founder Factory event that followed (…) I had several people ask me who I worked for while attending an event for founders. My white male cofounder did not experience these questions or assumptions at all, since it’s often easier for many in the startup community to associate a white male as a founder of a company.”
Moore and Nucci also listed accompanying actions. Along with Yarden’s departure, the org will be restructuring its Board of Directors by the end of the year to “better represent the community we serve”. The Diversity Dinner, which sparked the controversial debate, is still on. Mogulette founder Brigitte Daniels will lead the content planning and PSL will be repped by incoming board member Prasanna Krishnan.
“Our goal with these actions is to be responsive, not reactionary,” the letter read. “These are not the answers, but instead just a few steps toward a better future.”
Read the full statement below:
Dear Philadelphia Tech Community,
On Tuesday, our Executive Director exemplified behavior and made statements on a panel at the Black and Brown Founders Conference that were disappointing, inappropriate and unacceptable. We are sorry.
While the statements do not represent the values of our organization, the fact that this occurred at all is a reflection of our poor efforts around diversity and inclusion. We have serious work to do. Now.
We as a board accept this responsibility without hesitation.
Listening to the panel, as we have many times since Tuesday, shows that we need to talk less, listen more, and act when there is an opportunity to do better. Here’s where we’re starting:
- In recent months, we have started a process to restructure the PSL Board of Directors with additional members that more fully represent the community we serve. This process remains a top priority and will be completed with urgency, thoughtful consideration, and inclusiveness. It will conclude by the end of this year.
- Yuval Yarden has stepped down as Executive Director of Philly Startup Leaders as of Thursday, October 12th. While the recent panel was front-and-center in our considerations, we also hold a longer-term view that investing in new leadership is our best and most responsible path forward. Yuval’s work in building our organization in recent years has been invaluable and we wish her the best of luck.
- An authentic and honest conversation is as important as ever as we work to narrow the diversity gap and address PSL’s own lack of understanding and action on this issue. We want to be present, pay attention, and participate when appropriate. We hope the upcoming Diversity Dinner will serve as one of many spaces for this ongoing conversation. Our partners at Wilco and Mogulette, led by Brigitte Daniel, will continue to lead the Diversity Dinner content planning with a reframing of the discussion, and incoming PSL Board Member Prasanna Krishnan will represent PSL as one of the Diversity Dinner speakers.
- In addition, going forward we will recommit ourselves to ensuring that all of PSL’s signature events and activities are executed with a model and lens that increases diversity and inclusion and creates a stronger startup community.
Our goal with these actions is to be responsive, not reactionary. These are not the answers, but instead just a few steps toward a better future that will be built on a commitment to continuous awareness and improvement. The ten-year legacy of PSL is one we’re all proud to build upon, invest in, and continuously improve for many decades to come.
Robert J. Moore, PSL Board President
Rick Nucci, PSL Board Chairman
The PSL Board of Directors