“First, we know that promoting diversity is just the right thing to do. We’re all better when surrounded by diversity of thought, culture and identity. Second, since we help grow startups, it’s important to note that diversity makes business sense. We know that diverse companies with supported, happy teams perform better,” noted Joshua Baer on June 25th, at Capital Factory’s inaugural Dallas/Fort Worth LGBTQ+ in Tech Forum. At the Forum, local leaders, entrepreneurs and tech professionals engaged in important conversations on inclusion— sharing powerful insights on their experiences throughout the day.
While this isn’t Capital Factory’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) event or initiative, this was the first of its kind in the DFW area and definitely not the last. We’re proud to be working with local leaders to develop more consistent LGBTQ+ community events that extend well beyond Pride Month. By bringing people together and facilitating the conversations, we hope to highlight the challenges that LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs face and actively improve our startup ecosystem to address them.
The LGBTQ+ in Tech Forum started off with a networking lunch, which then led to a Keynote speech from distinguished investor Joel Fontenot, Managing General Partner at Reditus Ventures. He started off by acknowledging that 2019 is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which jump started the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement as we know it. Joel identifies as a “late bloomer”, and although his journey of self-discovery has been difficult along the way, his persistence has taken him far in life. He advised the audience, “What matters is you— the real, sincere and persistent you.” He also gave us some compelling tools for what you need as an entrepreneur.
It all comes down to three things:
1. Revenue. Bar none. Get to it and keep getting it.
2. People. People within and outside of your organization are vital, as well as you yourself inside and out. Stay rooted in reality, persistence and sincerity.
3. Simplicity. Break down even the most complex concepts into something people can understand clearly. If you can’t explain your business in three minutes, it’s not simple enough.
Joel’s keynote was followed by a special discussion plus a Q&A with Stacey Stevenson and moderated by Minh Vu, our Senior Programs Coordinator. Stacey is the co-founder of Lez Talk and Managing Director of Contact Center Experience at Charles Schwab. She calls herself an “unorthodox student in tech”; meaning that tech was a source of survival after dropping out of high school and struggling with both her identity and sense of belonging. She landed her first job in the industry as tech support for Windows 95, and from there her interest skyrocketed.
At one point Stacey commented on “imposter syndrome”, where one feels like they don’t belong in a certain setting, most often due to their identity as a minority, regardless of how capable they are in their field. This is a significant phenomena to focus on when it comes to minorities in tech, and Stacey offered this piece of advice: You’re not alone. There will be many moments of doubt, but learn to be proud of yourself and applaud your successes even when no one else will. Stacey now has over 20 years of experience in tech and co-founded Lez Talk, a women’s empowerment conference bringing together lesbian, transgender, bisexual, pansexual and demisexual women as well as allies for a day of empowerment, support, love and learning.
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Thank you @capitalfactory for having me today at the LGBTQ in Tech Forum. I am inspired by your commitment to make Tech an inclusive space. ⠀⠀ Up Next: I’ll be participating on a panel at the Mercedes Benz Financial LGBTQ Summit tomorrow at Texas Motor Speedway. ⠀⠀ Happy Pride Month! ⠀⠀ #iexist #livingloyt #weexist #leztalkdallas #LGBTQ #pridemonth #dallas #dallastx #lgbtqtech #tech #inclusivity ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀
Christine Wyatt, Chief Revenue Officer at Upswing, discussed management essentials and how vital it is to have empathy as a manager. Everyone is different, and it’s crucial to understand where people are coming from and also being willing to listen to them.
"My most effective management skill is empathy – it is my guidance through everything." @Cwyatt1 Chief Revenue Officer from @upswing during her roundtable discussion on "Management Essentials." pic.twitter.com/FLGNgq3aNO
— Capital Factory (@CFStartupPride) June 25, 2019
Charlie Lass, Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focused on how to successfully navigate entrepreneurship and innovation. An interesting concept he shared was “Cognitive Heuristics”, AKA human failings such as the status quo trap and confirming evidence. The status quo trap is when you have psychological comfort in stability— sticking to the norm simply because it’s the easier route. When you only perceive what you want to, while avoiding any information that contradicts it, you are in a confirming evidence trap.
Rachel Barber Wolf, Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Success at Eastfield College, talked about generational identity and workplace communication. This includes approaching your coworkers through the correct “generational lens” and being aware that there are adjustments that need to be made depending on who you’re working with.
Here’s to More Powerful Conversations
The Forum ended with a happy hour and another chance for guests to network and reflect on the topics covered throughout the day. Whether you’re an interested professional looking for a way to enter the startup community or an experienced entrepreneur, we’d like to encourage you to subscribe to our Dallas Tech Live newsletter for updates on all our events! We also welcome you to take the next step and join our community at Capital Factory— work alongside us as we continue our journey to make real change in the tech industry through diversity, equity and inclusion.
Want to see more highlights from our LGBTQ+ in Tech Forum? Check out our photo album.