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

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.


How Real-Time Data Is Helping Physicians Track Their Patients, One Heartbeat at a Time

S.C. Stuart
S.C. Stuart is a foreign correspondent (ELLE China, Esquire Latin America), Contributing Writer at Ziff Davis PCMag, and consults as a futurist for Hollywood Studios. Previously, S.C. was the head of digital at Hearst Magazines International while serving as a Non-Executive Director, UK Trade & Investment (US) and Digital Advisor at The Smithsonian.
How Real-Time Data Is Helping Physicians Track Their Patients, One Heartbeat at a Time

Are you a human node on a health-based digital network?

According to research from Insider Intelligence, the U.S. smart wearable user market is poised to grow 25.5% in 2023. Which is to say, there are an increasing number of Angelenos walking around this city whose vital signs can be tracked day and night via their doctor's digital device. If you've signed up to a health-based portal via a workplace insurance scheme, or through a primary care provider's portal which utilizes Google Fit, you’re one of them.

Do you know your baseline health status and resting heartbeat? Can you track your pulse, and take your own blood pressure? Have you received genetic counseling based on the sequencing of your genome? Do you avoid dairy because it bloats, or because you know you possess the variant that indicates lactose intolerance?

Read moreShow less

Who Will Win LA's E-scooter Wars?

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
Who Will Win LA's E-scooter Wars?
Evan Xie

Los Angeles — it’s not just beautiful weather, traffic and the Hollywood Walk of Fame — it’s also the largest shared micromobility market in the U.S. with six operators permitted to deploy up to 6,000 vehicles each.

And despite the open market policy, the competition shows no signs of slowing down.

Read moreShow less