Diversity Empowerment Summit Features Stories from Individual Persistence to Industry-wide Change

By September 18, 2017Blog, The Linux Foundation

Last week at The Linux Foundation’s first Diversity Empowerment Summit we heard from so many amazing speakers about how they are working to improve diversity in the tech industry.

Leaders from companies including Comcast, DreamWorks, IBM, Rancher Labs, Red Hat and many others recounted their own personal struggles to fit in and advance as women and minorities in tech. And they gave us sage advice and practical tips on what women, minorities, and their allies can do to facilitate inclusion and culture change in open source and the broader tech community.

The stories they told were inspiring. They spoke passionately of individual challenges and perseverance, brave acts that raise awareness, and a broad range of initiatives they are undertaking to inspire and create industry-wide change.

Finding success as a woman in tech

Munira Tayabji, a developer and digital supervisor of technology at DreamWorks, spoke about how she overcame the discrimination and alienation she faced as a woman and a minority studying computer science to find a successful career in film animation.  

“There’s a lot to say just about having confidence,” Tayabji said. “In difficult situations, you can’t be swayed from your goals.”

Her other tips included:

– speak about your goals, and more importantly write them down

– find people who can help guide you

– find a hole and plug it

– be persistent and consistent

Inspiring industry-wide change

We also heard from a panel of leaders in technology and open source who are each working in their own ways to promote diversity in the workplace and in the tech industry as a whole.

Jennifer Cloer, founder of reTHINKit PR and a former VP of communications at The Linux Foundation, led the panel which began with a debut of the Chasing Grace film project about women in tech. Each episode in this six-episode documentary series is focused on a different topic, “from the pay gap, online harassment and female entrepreneurship to access to the best jobs, the decision to leave or stay in tech and the role of male allies, the series will illustrate how we pave the way forward,” according to her blog.

“Hopefully projects like this can show different pathways for women,” said Cloer, executive producer of the film.

Kathryn Brown is featured in Chasing Grace and was on the Diversity Summit panel. She founded ScoutSavvy, a software startup that helps women and minorities find jobs in tech and helps companies recruit them.

“I decided I wanted to take my own risk and forge my own path… The workplace is evolving so slowly. So I went to code school so I could build my own products,” said Brown.

Nithya Ruff, director of open source at Comcast who is also featured in the film, spoke about her own path, advancing to become an executive in Fortune 500 tech companies.

“When I was younger it was more difficult for me (to be in tech), only because I wasn’t sure of myself and didn’t know how far I could push myself,” Ruff said. “I’m so optimistic that all of us are much more aware of bias and diversity issues. The dialogue has changed.”

Abby Kearns, executive director of Cloud Foundry Foundation, which is a sponsor of the film along with The Linux Foundation, also spoke of her experience becoming an advocate for diversity in open source communities.

“I’ve been in tech 20 years — you didn’t talk about diversity and inclusivity back then, you were just happy to be in the room,” Kearns said. “Taking a stance and being more outspoken has been very recent for me. Switching that mindset is going to take time for a lot of women.”

Linux Foundation diversity initiatives

The Linux Foundation is committed to helping create a more diverse tech industry through initiatives including free training, scholarships, travel funding, partnerships with other nonprofit organizations, and sponsorship of community events.

We welcome you to join the conversation on the Women in Open Source mailing list and encourage you to learn more about our diversity and inclusiveness initiatives.

Libby Clark

Libby Clark

Libby is the Content Marketing Manager at The Linux Foundation.
Libby Clark