OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 09: Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson and Blavity Inc. CEO Morgan DeBaun attends AfroTech 2019 at Oakland Marriott City Center. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for AfroTech)
Why more American firms are investing in diversity and inclusion programs and conferences.
The vision behind Afrotech was explained through the lenses of C-Suite Executives of Blavity, Inc. Morgan DeBaun CEO, Aaron Samuels COO, and Jeff Nelson CTO Blavity, Inc.
Blavity, Inc. is a media company and home to the largest network of platforms and lifestyle brands specifically serving Black millennials through original content, video and unique experience. Since 2014, the company has grown into a market leader for Black media, reaching 30 million millennials per month through its growing brand portfolio.
The 3-day event buzzed through a sold-out city venue, with the pulsation loud enough to invite the best and brightest talents from ivy league universities, top tier tech companies, Fortune 100 tech startups, and more.
Afrotech left us hungry for more, and in-search for more forums like these that unify and electrify the ingenuity and creativity of our future. Imagine, a place where every conversation started leads to an ideation room of ideas driven by the love of tech-novation and expansion into uncharted waters.
SVNED had the honor of interviewing the most prolific talents and political leaders of tomorrow’s world. Starting with CNN International Political Analyst Angela Rye. Angela Rye, dressed to head-to-toe in currency notes of the new’ $20 Bill by Moschino, a tribute to Harriet Tubman original. Harriet Tubman, an American abolitionist, and political activist. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped and subsequently made several successful missions to rescue enslaved people, using the network of anti-slavery activism and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
Angela Rye credited the success of AFROTECH to political leaders like Barbara Lee, who has echoed the brilliance of Oakland, CA on Capitol Hill. Now Oakland, CA has become a flavorful hub that embraces diversity in talent and is inclusive of people and various ‘cultures’ from all paths of life.
Angela Rye issued a request to her younger generation of talented minds leaving colleges to enter into the workforce, stating “Reach out to your supervisors for ways to improve yourself ahead of time and on an ongoing basis. Ask them how you can add value to the organization you are serving.”
She closed by declaring, “We need more forums and conferences like AFROTECH, where anyone of color in tech for the very first time, is able to be themselves and feel at home in a professional setting, even in the tech space.”
The next trailblazer was Isa Watson.
Tech world, gear up, this woman leader is making moves and is already being compared to the likes of the best from technology history to-date. SVNED sat down with Isa Watson to learn about her creation “Isa Squad”. Watson recalls: “Isa Squad is an app that helps people build their offline + IRL community”
Watson found herself and an increasing number of her friends and mentees inundated with social media, feeling really lonely and unfulfilled in real life as a result. Squad was created to host unique intimate event experiences among young professionals and offers a safe space to be human and share experiences beyond social media.
Growing up in a community-oriented immigrant household, Watson found that leaving Wall Street and starting the Squad was full-circle move for her. She explained, “Squad launched in NYC this summer, raised nearly $4mm in venture capital funding and has scaled rapidly. We expect to expand into dozens of cities, globally, in 2020.”
To join the priority waitlist: text SQUAD to 474747 (within the US only) to join an exclusive list to be notified when Squad comes to your city, and get first access.
SVNED had one direct question for Isa Watson whose current venture has raised $4 Million, and it was this:
How do you get to the YES?!
Watson responded with three direct tips for young and diverse startups and founders.
Firstly, connect with investors who are interested in and investing in diversified or women-led founders and startups. Secondly, connect with other founders and startups about funding solutions and engage with their networks through a direct introduction from a member of their community, like SVNED. Isa Watson explained that there are more peer-to-peer benefits when connecting founders with other founders. Lastly, Watson shared, many founders and startups when pitching are not representing the value of their industry honestly. She recommended for founders and startups to spend some time on substantiating the numerical value of the industry as well as the problems they are solving. It is important to carefully measure the market size and volume of the untapped and penetrable industry. With this information at hand, founders and startups can demonstrate to investors the value your startup would bring to their investment portfolios.
SVNED also sat down with Gerren Wilson a young leader in healthcare, with an eight-year upward trajectory career at one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world, Genetech. We asked Gerren Wilson what he felt was important to healthcare leaders these days. He responded, speaking directly about the African American Community that there was a dearth in participation in health discussions through focus groups, or health research studies designed to better understand the needs of our communities.
He added that in 2003, the Institute of Medicine released Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, a comprehensive review of disparities in healthcare treatment. The attitude, expectations and behaviors of providers and patients were examined, alongside conscious and unconscious differences in treatment based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender. These documents reviewed the biases, stereotypes, and communication obstacles impacting the interaction of providers and patients and their utilization of the healthcare system. Findings in the study concluded that: “Bias, stereotyping, prejudice, and clinical uncertainty on the part of healthcare providers may contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare,” and that “…a small number of studies suggested that racial and ethnic minority patients were more likely than white patients to refuse treatment”.
The current picture is clear; the greatest health disparity between the total US population and any ethnic group is found in African Americans.
The study adds: “Access to preventive, curative, and rehabilitative care must be assured to all persons including African Americans. Access is a lifelong need. Care for the potentially pregnant women is crucial and may have long-term consequences for her and her offspring. Comprehensive care for the infant, child, and adolescent is the key to their lifelong health and also their ability to function as productive and creative people. Adults often must be reminded that there are standards for healthcare from which they will benefit, and, as the population ages, access to appropriate and comprehensive care must be assured for elderly African Americans.” (Public Health Review: Improving the health of African Americans in the USA: an overdue opportunity for social justice).
Our interview concluded with the profound and eloquent Starlett Carter, the Founder & COO of Kanarys. Kanarys is an organization that is committed to holding industry accountable for meeting their respective diversity and inclusion goals. The organization provides company reviews and survey data on diversity, equity and inclusion issues — all posted anonymously by employees.
Overall, AFROTECH was an incredible experience, worthy of its praise and social media sensation created. The event’s publicity and talent relations was provided by Code Six.
This article was written in memory of Kaiser Permanente’s CEO, Bernard Tyson.