LaShana Lewis PASS Summit 2019 WiT

Data-Driven Diversity: Using Your Skills to Make a Difference

Coming to you live from PASS Summit 2019 Women in Tech luncheon.  Today I am very excited to see the keynote by LaShana Lewis, CEO, L.M. Lewis Consulting.  As a person who is always trying to find new ways to make a difference, I am very excited to see how LaShana can help me use my skills to make a difference.  Each one of us are beautiful, wonderful, capable people who have special abilities and skills to share.

LaShana is an amazing person!  She has been in business and tech for 20+ years, is a Certified PC Tech & Server Engineer, co-founded LGBT Center of St. Louis, and Chair of Mastercard LGBT ERG.  WOW!  Talk about really great accomplishments!

Let’s Talk About Greatness

LaShana opens it up about her life in East St. Louis as a child working on Commodore 64s.  She had a High School ex-Army computer teacher who suggested she continue on to College to pursue a career in computers.  After 3.5 years she left college and work various jobs here and there.  (The story is much better than I can tell!)  The take-away here is that as an African-American woman, she faced a lot of hostility and push-back which made it more difficult and set back her journey a bit.  Nevertheless, she persisted!

Wait wait wait.  I am not telling the story right.  Let me allow President Barack Obama tell you more: 

Why Does D&I Matter?

Of the many reasons why diversity and inclusion matter, the most prevalent reason companies focus on diversity and inclusion is to boost company culture.  Behind that is to improve performance, and lastly to represent their customer base more accurately.

Sounds great, but how far does that go in real life? 

MIT Media Lab found that facial recognition algorithms designed had error ranges of up to 35% higher when detecting the gender of darker-skinned women.  What does that mean?  It goes beyond hand dryers not working for darker-skinned individuals.  Many of the self-driving cars used algorithms that did not account for stopping the vehicle when it encountered a dark-skinned individual!

Stop and think about that for a moment.  If you are dark skinned, the likelihood of being hit by a self-driving car is higher…because of the color of your skin.  The lack of darker-skinned people represented in the coding and testing phases could have had catastrophic consequences!  Thankfully that has since been changed in this instance.  But there are so many other products in R&D right now lacking this insight.

Visibility Matters!

Have you noticed the new commercials showing the same-sex families, the multi-cultural office spaces, and/or more people of color?  That is because their buying power has reached over the trillion-dollar mark.  Once a societal sector reaches the trillion-dollar mark in buying power, companies start to pay attention.  

There are many ways to ensure visibility in your own space, please don’t wait for a trillion-dollar mark.  Make efforts now to boost visibility of diversity around you.  It is not hard to ignite a small spark to grow to greatness.

Takaways: Top 5

  1. You don’t have to be a D&I expert to make a difference.
    Certifications are nice to have
  2. Your skills can shed light on diversity.
    Data can be used to inform what changes and new initiatives need to be made to move forward.  Speak out!
  3. Use data to help drive organizational goals.
    What metrics does your company pay the most attention to?
  4. If you have data, think differently!
    Companies use raw data to understand what exists instead of what could be.
  5. If you don’t have data, use easy/free/anon resources, such as the Implicit Bias Test:

Last words just from me

We can and MUST do better.  Open your hearts, your eyes and ears, and use that data and your skills to make a difference!  We can do this together!  Remember, there is always room at the table for one more.  Success is a team sport!

LaShana Lewis and Angela TidwellPASS_19_BloggerIcon



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