The LinkedIn TransformHER conference recently had its second gathering and gave people plenty of inspiration. Its purpose is to provide a place for Latina and Black women in tech and their allies to enjoy a professional forum for building relationships and leveraging resources. The first event happened in April 2018 in New York, and the more recent one kicked off in San Francisco on February 1, 2019.
The theme of this year's event was "Up-Leveling Self, Industry and Society." Brittney Oliver, the founder of Lemons 2 Lemonade, and Simone Harvey, the Global Program Manager at Airbnb, were among the speakers at this one-day event. The event reached capacity this year, but even people who couldn't get tickets enjoyed the happenings. The content was live-streamed on YouTube and you can still watch archived footage.
Here are four essential takeaways from this year's gathering:
1. Brave Spaces Give Others the Freedom to Be Themselves
Rosanna Durruthy, Head Of Global Diversity Inclusion & Belonging at LinkedIn, appeared early in the day at TransformHER. One of her points of focus — and one of the conference at large — was bravery.
She talked about various forms of disappointment, including one that's likely especially familiar for black women in tech — The disappointment of "only-ness" which makes people wonder, "Why am I the only one who feels like me or looks this way?" Durruthy continued by pointing out that the people who feel like they are the only ones experiencing these feelings are often the ones who bravely create the spaces letting other minorities be themselves.
She clarified that a brave space also happens when a person can walk into a room and say things with a voice that inspires others to act instead of wondering whether people want to hear what they have to say or if they should even say it. Bravery means taking actions even if they don't have immediate proof of payoff. That's because bravery means making a difference for the wider community and not just for yourself.
Durruthy also spoke about how bravery doesn't mean knowing all the answers, but it involves having the willingness to invite someone else into the space and teaching them the things they've learned over time. Often, that might mean that the person who created the space misses an opportunity that someone gets, but being a leader in this way requires accepting that this form of bravery helps others find success for themselves.
2. Mentoring Is Crucial for Young People of Underrepresented and Underprivileged Backgrounds
Even though male CEOs dominate the tech world, there are some outstanding female corporate leaders to watch. One of them is Andrea Guendelman. She was one of the keynote speakers at TransformHER, and recently founded a startup called Wallbreakers that seeks to break down barriers in tech by helping people from underrepresented groups work in the field.
So, it's probably not surprising that her keynote was about how people in positions of privilege can share their "trade secrets" with underrepresented and underprivileged young people. Guendelman pointed out that when people seem to succeed without trying, it's often because they've had people of influence in their lives who willingly passed on some of the things they needed to get through life.
That option doesn't always exist for less-privileged people, and Guendelman asserted that people who do know those trade secrets should take it upon themselves to be mentors for those who don't. Besides communicating the things a person should know when working for a specific organization, the mentoring should encompass the things the mentor wished they'd known when they were younger — but adjust the points so they're applicable to today's generation.
3. Seize the Intersectionality Within Yourself and Use It for the Greater Good
Mahima Muralidharan, Chief Psychology Officer for Tiatros, Inc., challenged people of color to remember their inner intersectionality and the parts that give them power. For example, even though a person might lack power in certain spaces, they may have other aspects of themselves — such as college educations that help get their voices heard.
As such, Muralidharan urged people to recognize the parts of themselves they could use to elevate others. Then, those who are on the margins have opportunities to get heard. Afterward, her sentiments got more traction on social media.
4. It's Crucial to Get to the Heart of Why Microaggressions and Similar Problems Happen
LaFawn Davis, Head of Global Inclusion at Twilio, was part of a panel at the event and spoke about how many companies host diversity training and similar events because they merely want to "check the box." Davis brought up microaggressions as an example, though, and said it's not as simple as saying that a person is biased and that's causing their behavior.
She asserted there is often a whole slew of problems at play and that companies need all-encompassing programs to tackle them. It's not enough to have someone come to speak for an hour or two to fix the problem
An Empowering and Memorable Event
The most recent TransformHER conference gave people food for thought and reasons to stay inspired whether they attended in person or watched online. If you're interested in going to the next one, it'll reportedly be in New York with more details to come.