The Atlantic warns of backlash against more diversity in tech

The Atlantic magazine is coming to San Francisco to campaign for inclusivity and diversity in the tech industry
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

The Atlantic magazine is coming to San Francisco next week to host a conference as part of a long running campaign to improve diversity in US tech companies.

The Washington, D.C. based media company is warning about a backlash to greater diversity in the tech sector.

some in the industry have questioned whether efforts to turn the tide have gone too far. This backlash, along with numerous reports of sexism throughout the Valley, have left many wondering how to create real belonging in the innovation capital.

The one-day conference will "explore what change is needed to create lasting equity for all who work in the field."

Tuesday, December 12 - San Francisco Free with RSVP

The day's agenda starts with: Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women, And What's Being Done About it? A Town Hall Conversation

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Foremski's Take: The Atlantic has pulled together a great group of speakers and topics plus there are several lunch workshops. I like the focus on doing rather than talking and how to move things forward.

The Atlantic held a similar event a year ago and fortunately only one of the companies represented at the conference became a headline on the wrong side of the decency ledger in 2017.

A Scummy Valley...

Th Atlantic has been keeping up a sharp critical eye on Silicon Valley and its companies. Here's some example headlines from 2017:

The Education of Mark Zuckerberg

Uber's Latest Bad Thing Is Not Just About Uber

The Poverty Just Over the Hills From Silicon Valley

Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?

The Atlantic's critiques of Silicon Valley are mostly well argued and valid. However, it is hard to get Silicon Valley's attention. Because Silicon Valley doesn't really exist -- it's an invention of the media.

People that live in the San Francisco Bay Area don't identify with living in Silicon Valley. They live in Menlo Park, Burlingame, Mountain View, Woodside and dozens of other towns and neighborhoods.

And it is hard to get the attention of tech workers because of the always-on culture with its insular focus on work.

The larger Silicon Valley companies are aware of the diversity issue but recruiters are gender confused and color distracted. Companies that do want more diversity are frustrated because it is illegal to offer someone a job based on anything other than their abilities and qualifications.

Greater diversity in the workplace grows in parallel with diversity in job applicants. There can be no quick fix which makes it important to keep up the pressure for more diversity and inclusivity for many years.

In July 2017 Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, became the majority owner of The Atlantic through an investment made by her non-profit organization Emerson Collective.

Ms Jobs is a billionaire and could certainly help move the needle on diversity and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley with her money and her connections. Her Emerson Collective is spending tens of millions of dollars every year to fullfil its mission of "removing barriers to opportunity so people can live to their full potential."

Watch this space.

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Please see: Rent the Runway CEO: Gender discrimination is larger workplace issue than sexual harassment

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