What’s Going to Happen After Philly Startup Leaders’ Tense Diversity Dinner?

Philly Startup Leaders’ second annual Diversity Dinner, co-organized by nonprofit Mogulette, drew 230 attendees to Bok Wednesday for a night of soul searching. The Philadelphia tech community was there to discuss one of its biggest challenges: accurately and fairly representing itself.

Attended by Mayor Jim Kenney, Comcast’s David Cohen and City Councilman Allan Domb, the evening came on the heels of a tumultuous shakeup of the nonprofit’s leadership, the result of a tense discussion between former PSL executive director Yuval Yarden and Little Giant Creative founder Tayyib Smith.

(Though she kept a low profile, Yarden was in attendance Wednesday night, joining a table discussion with Cohen, ROAR for Good’s Yasmine Mustafa and MilkCrate CEO Morgan Berman.)

The dinner itself also had its fair share of tension: IOPipe cofounder Erica Windisch, originally scheduled to speak, was bumped from the schedule and made it known during a town-hall like discussion.

Windisch, a trans woman, later returned to the space and delivered a powerful speech on the need to “clean our house” and enact policies that improve equality and inclusion across Philadelphia (not just in the tech scene).

“We need to face our problems together, but first we need to clean our house,” Windisch said.

Per Brigitte Daniel, founder of Mogulette and exec at Wilco Electronics, the evening was a sign of “growing consensus and urgency” around the need to improve on diversity and inclusion. While the results of the table discussions are still being processed by the group, here are three specific outcomes of the evening, according to Daniel:

  • A city-wide tech community “manifesto” will be created, which will pledge intentional engagement to better diversity and inclusion efforts.
  • Advocate for disclosure and transparency of tech startup hiring demographics to build metrics of accountability.
  • A quarterly PSL / Mogulette meeting to establish conversations around normalizing tech diversity.

The qualm from many event attendees: last year’s event also yielded a list of actions, including the need for startups to create programs aimed at diversity and inclusion. When, during the town hall discussion, a community member asked which companies had such programs in place, maybe ten percent of the hands went up.

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October 26, 2017