#20 Tracy Chou: The Battle for Diversity in Tech

Listen to the latest episode of Future Forecast with Isabelle Ringnes where technology entrepreneur and diversity advocate, Tracy Chou, talks passionately about diversity (and the lack of) in the technology industry, and how women and other minorities need to be encouraged to take up the challenge to work in a sector that is still dominated by white males.


Make a difference from a bad experience

Tracy is leaving a notable footprint in the technology field and has worked for some pioneering online businesses, including Quora and Pinterest when they were just starting out. She made a big impact quickly, where she used her own unpleasant experience of online harassment to build a blocking tool to counteract any such incidents for the users. Tracy now heads two non-profit businesses to make technology a more inclusive environment. She highlights that technology start-ups rely on differentiating technology, so bright minds, from whatever background, must feel comfortable in their working environment to be able to excel.



Break the harassment cycle

Tracy almost left the industry because of the nagging negatives. These experiences were generally minor but they added up where every day would be an uphill battle. Tracy recalls that she felt like she had faded into the background where her opinions were not taken seriously. Sometimes even her physical appearance would change people’s behavior towards her from one day to the next. Tracy points out that being in a minority group will become a serious problem when trying to climb up the career ladder. Leaders tend to hire other leaders who look and behave like them. This is an ingrained mindset and behavior that has been part of the workforce all along.


Tracy is making headway by getting companies think about reporting their diversity numbers, because with data a real strategy can be created to target the problem head-on. When there is more diversity in business, assuming the right people are placed in jobs, there is a better flow of ideas and innovation, which will tackle the skills gap that is currently being seen.


Target diversity from the inside and out

The lack of diversity makes the technology industry an unappealing sector to work in for women and other minority groups. This thinking will only change when the industry makes real progress in their diversity attitude. The technology sector has made some strides forward,  but also steps sideways and backwards, because of pushback and negatives so momentum cannot be gained (Freada Kapor Klein, co-founder at Kapor Capital and the Kapor Center for Social Impact).


Tracy highlights that steady change can only be made with diversity pioneers who can create an equal internal culture, and who should also reach outwards to attract minority talent. Women need to understand what is possible with technology and that they can make a real difference by working in this sector. They need to know that they will not just be coding, they need to understand that technology is “woven into our lives and the world,” because through technological innovation we create a better product or service that can change the world.


Tracy’s non-profit efforts will help spread the diversity message, and together with like-minded diversity champions the technology sector will hopefully make actual innovation leaps, because true innovation needs company-culture innovation first.