dot.LA Summit: Going Beyond Lip Service on Diversity and Inclusion is ‘A Matter of Respect’

Harri Weber

Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to harrison@dot.la.

dot.LA Summit: Going Beyond Lip Service on Diversity and Inclusion is ‘A Matter of Respect’
Pledges to boost diversity and inclusion are widespread in the tech and startup world, but the industry chronically fails to realize its own goals.

That's no coincidence. The venture capital world, which provides much of the capital fueling fledgling startups, remains a boys club with a bias towards white male founders. And that bias has a ripple effect, warping industry hiring practices and decision making. The problem is repelling workers, too, as post-lockdown resignations skyrocket and companies weigh new policies, such as remote work and hybrid schedules, to retain staffers.

"It's about being able to show up at work as your full self, said Ricardo Vazquez, executive officer at the mayor's Office of Economic Development, in a dot.LA Summit panel on building diversity and inclusion within startups and larger firms.

"I'm Mexican American. I can't just leave that in my apartment, so that means creating a space where I feel comfortable being Latinx and being Mexican American," Vazquez said.

The discussion was hosted by Form senior program manager Andrea Zak and also featured Leila Lee, the mayor's director of small business and entrepreneurship, and AnnenbergTech program lead Calvin Selth. The talk comes as employees in the tech industry press their employers to go beyond the usual lip service on inclusion.

Just last week, members of Netflix's trans employee resource group organized a walkout over the streaming giant's handling of Dave Chappelle's standup special, "The Closer." Friday's panel touched on Netflix's bungled response.

"I think for me it's just a matter of respect. I think we kinda lost that," said Lee. "And I think at Netflix, there was a little bit of a lack of respect, in my opinion," she added.

And expectations continue to evolve. "We're seeing more employees expecting more alignment between their own values and the social impact missions of their companies," said Selth.

"You can't be stuck in the 90s or old notions of diversity, you have to continue. We're not having a Thanksgiving conversation with our uncle. We're talking about how we're going to run our business and impact peoples' lives," he added.

Lee argues this is an area where startups actually have an advantage. It's "where startups can really make a whole lot of difference at creating a culture that really respects each person," she said.

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

Read moreShow less

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

Read moreShow less

Liquid Death May Just Be The 'Fastest Growing Non-Alcoholic Beverage Of All Time'

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Liquid Death May Just Be The 'Fastest Growing Non-Alcoholic Beverage Of All Time'
Liquid Death Files Paperwork to Raise $15 Million

When Santa Monica-based Liquid Death launched with funding from neighboring venture capital firm Science Inc. in 2018, the Los Angeles startup world – and everyone else – had nothing but jokes. But with the company’s latest $700 million valuation, it appears the joke is on the rest of us.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending