This week in #bufferchat, we discussed what it means to create an inclusive tech ecosystem. In our 2nd chat time, we were joined by Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton, co-founders of Change Catalyst and the Tech Inclusion initiative, who shared their perspectives on what this work looks like. We talked about why an inclusive tech community is something to aspire to, what needs to change in order to make it happen, the great work that is already happening, and much more!

[As a heads up, Tech Inclusion’s biggest event of the year is happening October 26-27 in San Francisco and tickets are on sale now!]

Read on to discover all of the amazing ideas and thoughts that were shared during the chat!

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Bufferchat on Oct 12, 2016: Creating an Inclusive Tech Ecosystem

This week’s stats:
1st Bufferchat: 63 participants; 236 tweets; reach of 837,412
2nd Bufferchat: 275 participants;1,398 tweets; reach of 1,740,716

Q1: What does “inclusion in tech” mean to you?

From Melinda:

  • #TechInclusion = Access, opportunity, funding and better innovation. Where everyone is allowed to thrive in tech.
  • “Everyone” means from every gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, age, geography.
  • We need both diversity and inclusion to truly develop an inclusive tech economy.

From Wayne: 

  • “Inclusion in tech” means for everyone to have the same opportunities & access.
  • Inclusion in tech also means everyone feels welcomed no matter, race, age, gender, sexual orientation.

From the community:

  • “Inclusion means SEEKING the voices of people with as many viewpoints as possible. Letting their message impact the work.” @STEVMLR
  • “‘Inclusion in tech’ is to make room at the table for people who don’t look, sound or think like you. Embrace differences.” @emilyesteck
  • “True inclusion goes beyond just numbers. Means of influence, opportunities to rise matter.” @ayumibennett
  • “Inclusion in tech means not only opportunities for all to join but also ability to be their true selves & use their strengths.” @courtneyseiter
  • “Exploring innovative solutions to tech inclusion for people with visible & invisible disabilities.” @QLTechAustralia

See all the great answers to question 1 here!

Q2: Why is an inclusive tech community something to aspire to?

From Melinda:

  • An inclusive tech community is a necessity vs. an aspiration – we must work together to make this happen for our collective future.
  • Currently tech is leaving people out due to systemic biases. These need to change.

From Wayne:

  • Everyone should aspire for an inclusive tech community. It’s where innovation thrives & everyone feels welcomed!

From the community:

  • “Diverse problems require diverse solutions. Leveraging the array of backgrounds and skills is a win for us all.” @absolut_zer0
  • “Tech functions best when we mold each other’s creativity, innovation and conceptual ideas. We need openness to grow.” @YellingMule
  • “Tech is both pervasive and culturally transformative. It ought to be shaped by all of the communities it impacts.” @BrentKulba
  • “Because humanity is diverse, and so our companies/working communities should reflect that as well.” @brebiai
  • “Greater inclusivity means more voices are heard, which leads to a richer discussion + ultimately a better result.” @newmedian

See all the great answers to question 2 here!

Q3: What do you think needs to change before we can have a truly inclusive tech industry?

From Melinda:

  • True innovation comes from diverse voices, perspectives and leaders.
  • Currently the tech industry as a whole is not putting in the resources to create the change needed for inclusion.
  • There is a misperception of a meritocracy in tech that needs to change before tech can be truly inclusive.
  • A perceived meritocracy permeates venture capital, education, tech workplace, policy and throughout the tech ecosystem.
  • The result of this perception of meritocracy is a lack of funding, education, hiring and legislation in tech for most people.

From Wayne:

  • 1. Investors must care & want to create an inclusive tech industry.
  • 2. Need more diverse investors & we need all investors to fund underrepresented founders.
  • 3. We need CEOs, board & executive teams to care & want to change. We need internal & external accountability in tech.
  • 4. Tech companies need to hire and promote more minorities to leadership positions.
  • 5. Equal pay for everyone.

From the community:

  • “Tech stereotypes need to be ditched, time for newer expectations that a fully inclusive community can offer.” @ideabloke
  • “Get out of your comfort zone. Reach out to folks who think, look different from you. It takes effort but it’s worth it.” @MiaD
  • “We could start with better listening skills. Not just listening for ideas that agree with your own. Hear all, pick best idea.” @jchapstk
  • “Leadership has to set the tone and enforce accountability to root out systemic bias first. Otherwise there’s no point.” @rmacklinrecruit
  • “Transparency, to make sure everyone is going at the same pace & in the same mindset while being physically apart.” @paige_sandhu

See all the great answers to question 3 here!

Q4: What have you seen happen that supports an inclusive tech ecosystem that you’d like to see more of?

From Melinda:

  • Audit hiring practices to correct *vs hide* biases – means looking at accessibility, sourcing, interviewing & making offer.
  • Look at the skills and rich experiences people bring to innovation vs the pedigree of their education and upbringing.
  • Policies and legislation that help tech companies & educators prioritize diversity and inclusion.
  • Emotional intelligence, mindfulness practices, working on a culture that elevates empathy & belonging as a key to success.

From Wayne:

  • I’ve seen more companies hire head of diversity roles. More tech companies admitting there’s a systemic problem.
  • More funding for STEM programs.
  • At we’re working with numerous tech companies on culture change & leadership development.
  • More companies supporting internal ERGs. More funding opportunities for underrepresented founders.

From the community:

  • “More remote work / telework / flex schedule options that make it easier for parents/caregivers to fit work to their needs.” @NataliePalombi
  • “Programs dedicated to helping children in inner cities and/or young girls explore tech.” @CardozaGab
  • “Online communities that allow people to engage with others no matter who they are and where they’re from.” @TheWanderLyz
  • “The inclusion of a program like “Lean In Circles” for women in tech are really great for bonding and awareness.” @jesswlms
  • “Diversity among speakers & panels in local tech conferences. The community gets to hear varied perspectives.” @jcockhren

See all the great answers to question 4 here!

Q5: Where can someone go to learn more about what’s being done to improve diversity + inclusion in tech?

From Melinda:

From Wayne:

  • Tech Inclusion Conference: we focus on solutions to innovation, inclusion & diversity in tech. There are CEOs, investors, engineers and members of the White House speaking!

From the community:

  • “If you love the curation from Twitter, the hashtag is the place to be. You could also head to tweetchats like .” @ElleMalala
  • “Check out local universities. Offer to get involved with tech meetups that cater to inclusivity. Google university as well.” @SarahMT1212
  • “Right here on Twitter – follow , , 🙂 Many more to see, learn from.” @sc_mccann
  • “Connect with your colleagues, team members who are from different communities.” @philsiarri
  • “Google “Women Tech Events + [your location]” and look for awesome events in your area. Connect. Empower. Grow.” @izzydoesizzy

See all the great answers to question 5 here!

Q6: Which people and/or companies inspire you when it comes to creating an inclusive tech ecosystem, and why?

From Melinda:

From Wayne:

See all the great answers to question 6 here!

Q7: What is one actionable thing you can do today to help bring about more inclusion in tech?

From Melinda:

  • Bring more allies into the conversation and action around #techinclusion.
  • If you’re used to leading, step back, listen & leave space for a new voice – then lead together.
  • If you’re used to staying on the sidelines, speak up, do something different, take risks, make change happen.

From Wayne:

  • If you’re a CEO, hire minorities. If you’re an underrepresented founder, be successful. If you’re an investor, fund minorities.

From the community:

  • “Engage with people outside of your comfort zone to help reduce your personal biases and concerns.” @clearly_media
  • “Be open to the diverse representation, be open for the dialogue & not be limited by biases to find better answers.” @theerailivedin
  • “Examine your personal “Advisory Board.” Is it inclusive? If not, start there. You can’t flip a switch a work.” @jonmcduffie
  • “Stand up for diversity with facts to support it in hand.” @ideakid88
  • “Volunteer at a local school or community center. Show children there are opportunities and a future for anyone in tech.” @milestech

See all the great answers to question 7 here!


Thank you so much to Melinda and Wayne for taking the time to share so many awesome insights, and to everyone who participated in this chat!

Catch #bufferchat each Wednesday at 9 am PT (San Francisco time)  OR at 4 pm AEDT (Sydney time). Join our Slack community with over 2,000 members to continue these awesome conversations all week long!

Do you have any comments or answers to these questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

Image sources: UnSplash

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Written by Arielle Tannenbaum

Community Strategist at Buffer. In addition to her love of community building, Arielle also loves vegetables, cooking, practicing yoga, meditating, living mindfully, and exploring the connections between health and happiness!