Lesbians Who Tech Summit Sets the Stage for What Tech Conferences Should Look Like

“Let’s get one things straight, men are not more talented than women.” Sheryl Sandberg echoed this sentiment during her interview in the opening keynote session of the 2018 Lesbians Who Tech Summit (LWT), held in San Francisco’s Castro Theate, from March 1 to 3.

Sandberg went on to reference a recent study by her organization, Lean In, which found that not only is it harder to be promoted as a woman, it’s even harder for a woman of color or minority group. Here’s a glimpse of the numbers (and you can find the full Women in the Workplace 2017 study here.) 

The goal of LWT is to help lesbians in the tech industry be more visible to one another, be more visible to others as leaders, and to get more women and lesbians into technology. The conference offers coding scholarships, recruiting opportunities, workshops, speed mentoring, demos, and after-parties for networking. LWT is a thriving community with more than 30,000 members in 39 cities around the world.  

Leanne Pittsford, founder and CEO of Lesbians Who Tech, mentioned in the opening keynote that, when booking the summit’s speakers, very intentional representation goals were set. This year, the speaker goal was 50% women of color and 10% trans and gender non-conforming professionals. 

“I knew that if we wanted to build a community that was intersectional, it had to be intentional,” Pittsford told GO Magazine in an article published last year about forming LWT.

Intentionality is paramount.

Here are a few takeaways from Pittsford’s keynote:





Demystifying Diversity and Inclusion

Here’s the part about diversity and inclusion that must be understood: They are two parts that coexist. Diversity cannot operate without inclusion, and vice versa.

Look at this as you would the scientific concept of mutualism: when two organisms of different species “work together,” each benefitting from the relationship. An easy example of this is the oxpecker that lands on a zebra. The oxpecker eats the ticks and parasites on the zebra’s skin, nourishing itself, while the zebra benefits with pest control.


Plugging It In

I work in talent and acquisition at SAP, specifically for SAP’s global Internship Experience Project (iXp). Every day I am faced with thinking about two problems:

  1. How do we reach diverse candidates in order to build a diverse workforce for SAP?
  2. How do we ensure each intern feels included in our workplace and is equipped with the tools needed to succeed in their career?

In order for me and my colleagues in recruiting at SAP to truly do our jobs well, we have to consistently challenge ourselves to look at each candidate as holistically and unbiasedly as possible.

In early talent recruiting, we don’t look for the school they attended or the GPA they achieved right away. We are trained to look at their extracurricular activities, passions, and projects, and ask interview questions that help us grasp who that person really is.

What obstacles have they faced? Did they work a full-time job to put themselves through school? Are they excited to work at our company because this is an opportunity they worked hard to achieve?

In a recent Q&A with Forbes, Pittsford said:

“A lot of times people kind of hire one type of a person. You have to get to a certain point in terms of representation to provide a more equal range of opportunities. One of the quotes one of our members said was 'the best way to hire women and people of color is just to hire them.' I think that's true for upper mobility as well. The best way to get women, people of color and LGBTQ people to leadership positions is just to put them in leadership positions.”

This is exactly our mission at SAP: To move the needle with every new hire we add. At SAP iXp, we like to call this hiring “culture adds,” as opposed to culture fits.

This year at the LWT summit, SAP had 25 attendees, sponsorship and recruiting booths, and three summit speakers. You can read their conference stories here. To view open roles at SAP iXp go here. For all other roles visit the SAP careers page.

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