Diversity in Tech Awards virtual event, sponsored by Microsoft for Startups, honours Out in Tech, Kriti Sharma, Irish Girl Guides, Bank of Ireland, and more

Business For Good, Dublin Tech Summit, Editor's Choice, Irish News, Technology | Thu 12 Nov | Author – Business & Finance
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The Diversity in Tech Awards was broadcast Tuesday, 10th of November 2020, at 5pm GMT and honoured diversity and inclusion across the tech industry

The Diversity in Tech Awards, sponsored by Microsoft for Startups, was broadcast Tuesday, 10th of November 2020, at 5pm GMT. The event attracted 650 attendees from 25+ countries, awarded 16 winners (14 nominated and 2 special recognition), received 300+ nominations from 20+ countries, and garnered 16 partners in total.

The awards celebrated the best in tech, and highlighted the achievements of organisations in promoting diversity across the technology sector. Previously known as the Women in Tech awards, the event was expanded this year to recognise diversity in all of its forms. This included 18 categories with an equal number for both diversity and women in tech.

Making the Conversation Virtual

The ceremony was held virtually due to COVID-19. Tracey Carney, Managing Director of Dublin Tech Summit and Business & Finance Media Group, opened proceedings. “Dublin Tech Summit has always been committed to showcasing diversity, equality, and inclusion in all its forms, and we wanted our awards to reflect this,” she said.

Ms Carney continued by praising event partners Microsoft for Startups – a company that was “a perfect fit,” she said, due to their “passion for diversity, and commitment to equality.”

Director of Microsoft for Startups, Andrew Macadam, then addressed attendees. “Over the last few days,” he said, “I have had the opportunity to engage and witness some amazing things, and what I want to start by doing is acknowledging the amazing nominees that we’ve had – the people brave enough to show that courage to put themselves forward to be a part of a part of this process. Hopefully, what you’re going to get out of this over the next few hours is inspiration.”

Dublin Tech Summit has always been committed to showcasing diversity, equality, and inclusion in all its forms, and we wanted our awards to reflect this

He continued: “We need to challenge ourselves. There’s a couple of words I’ve heard over the last few days that I think are really important: One of them is listening. You’ve got the opportunity over the next few hours to listen. The other part is curiosity. You’re here to listen to these people, but it’s important as allies, as people who are living this, that we bring this curiosity into the lives that we do, to understand how we can really move things forward.”

The Women in Tech categories included a focus on tech leadership, entrepreneurship, digital transformation, mentorship and data science. There were also two special recognition awards: The Diversity in Tech Impact Award, sponsored by VoltEdge, and the Grace Hopper Award, sponsored by JP Morgan.

The Impact Award

Gary Goldman, Senior Programme Director of Out in Tech – a non-profit dedicated to expanding horizons for LGBTQ+ people in tech – won the Impact Award and addressed attendees in a special fireside with host Jess Kelly, broadcaster.

When asked about difficulties LGBTQ+ people face in the tech industry, Mr Goldman said: “There are 200 countries around the world, and there are so many different scenarios, and a lot of that even is legislative … In terms of workplace discrimination, that was something that was at the forefront in the United States. It was just a few months ago that the Supreme Court ruled that you could not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

He then moved on to speak about how Out in Tech works with individuals who live in countries where it is still illegal to be openly queer. There are 70 countries in the world where it is illegal to be LGBTQ+, and 5 where LGBTQ+ individuals can face the death penalty. Mr Goldman also spoke extensively on the importance of queer visibility in the workplace, and advocated for transparency in how companies promote LGBTQ+ inclusion.

In terms of workplace discrimination, that was something that was at the forefront in the United States. It was just a few months ago that the Supreme Court ruled that you could not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Grace Hopper Award

The Grace Hopper Award is for women who have made their mark in innovation, and named for the pioneering US computer scientist. Hopper was one of the first programmers to work on the Harvard Mark 1, the world’s first electromechanical computer.

Kriti Sharma, Vice President of Product at GfK, was this year’s recipient of the Grace Hopper Award. Ms Sharma grew up in Rajasthan, India, and built her own computer and robots. Her aim is to develop artificial intelligence for good. In a fireside chat with Jess Kelly, she said: “The bad stuff gets more headlines, but that’s because of the adoption curve of this technology and where we are. We’re still in early stages to create more positive examples of where we are using technology to help solve genuine social problems.”

Ms Sharma then spoke about a product she helped develop called ‘Rainbow’ in South Africa, an AI tool that helps women who are at risk of domestic abuse get access to essential services. “It helps you understand if you are in an abusive relationship,” she said, “and it gives you someone to talk to, except on the other side it is not a human, it is a machine. We found from our research that people find it much easier to open up to technology when they don’t feel judged.”

Ms Sharma noted that this product has helped women who have felt isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked if AI can somehow inherit human bias, she said: “Technology … is only as good as the people who make it and what we use it for and how we create it.”

Technology … is only as good as the people who make it and what we use it for and how we create it.

Not Another Branding Exercise

Attendees were also witness to a panel discussion titled, ‘Not Another Branding Exercise: Are you achieving authentic D&I in your organisation’, sponsored by Business & Finance. Speakers included Andrew Macadam, Director of Microsoft for Startups, Daisy Auger-Dominguez, Chief People Officer at Vice Media Group, and Furkan Karayel, founder and CEO of Diversein.com. The panel was moderated by Abadesi Osunsade, founder of Hustle Crew and co-host of the Techish podcast.

Ms Karayel opened the conversation by urging business and tech leaders to make diversity and inclusion a part of their agenda: “They set the tone, they prioritise, and then everyone in the organisation will embrace that as well,” she said

Ms Auger-Dominguez then said that, fundamentally, what leaders do matters more than what they say. “I think of this work as dismantling inequity in the workplace,” she said. “It’s a lot more than public displays on social media, which is what we’re seeing a lot of, or one-and-done recruiting initiatives, anti-bias or anti-racism training, or even just creating the jobs for someone else to solve … I always begin and engage leaders and colleagues in this work as something that has to be very personal to begin with.

“You really have to – I call it ‘holding up a mirror’ – look inward, and really reflect and think about and listen, and be open to things that are going to be really uncomfortable. And it’s not enough to be aware, you have to act on it. Be willing to act and be willing to fumble on it.”

The world began to pay attention in a way I hadn’t seen before … It sparked an outpouring of grief and activism … For black people, the injustice around the murder of unarmed black people is sadly not new, but the scale of recognition, of systemic racism, of systemic oppression, and of allyship, is. And that I have seen across every organisation

Mr Macadam noted the importance of listening: “Curiosity … Realising it’s important to be curious and to ask questions, and from that learn and build and grow to move the whole conversation forward,” he said.

Ms Osunsade echoed Mr Macadam’s point: “It’s okay to not know everything, and maybe there is value in sitting in that space of discomfort that comes with being schooled on something that you need to know, but don’t know enough about.”

The panel then discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and the worldwide protests sparked by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. “The whole world has changed,” said Auger-Dominguez. “After we all went into our global shutdown, I felt an immediate fright.” This ‘immediate fright’ stemmed from a fear that, with business cutbacks that might come from the COVID-19 pandemic, diversity and inclusion initiatives would be scaled back. The Black Lives Matter movement proved they were needed now more than ever.

Auger-Dominguez continued: “The world began to pay attention in a way I hadn’t seen before … It sparked an outpouring of grief and activism … For black people, the injustice around the murder of unarmed black people is sadly not new, but the scale of recognition, of systemic racism, of systemic oppression, and of allyship, is. And that I have seen across every organisation.”

During the summer, a lot of companies were criticised for failing minority groups. Ms Auger-Dominguez spoke about this issue with a first-hand perspective: “A lot of black women and women of colour – former Refinery29 employees, which is one of our lines of business at Vice Media Group – shared through social media negative experiences that they had lived through through their time working at the company. And we took the stories of these women very seriously … We did not react, we responded, which is one of the skill sets I’ve been trying to teach my colleagues.”

Categories, Winners, and Video on Demand

This year’s categories included the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Award, the Cultural Inclusion Award, the Tech Leader Award, the Trailblazer Award, the Digital Transformation Award among others. Judges included Shinjini Das, CEO at Das Media Group, Gearoid Kearney, CEO of myAccessHub, Gary Steward, CEO & Co-Founder of The Nest, and Sarah Cunningham, Vice President at Mastercard Dublin Tech Hub, among others.

Here are this year’s winners:

The sponsors for the Diversity in Tech Awards 2020 were Microsoft for Startups, Nitro, Business & Finance, Etsy, The Irish Times, Radix .techDomains, LEO, BT, Fiserv, Dublin Tech Summit, Kantar, Voltedge, and JP Morgan.

If you missed the event, you can watch it on demand here.