This past week I was in Seattle for the Net Impact Conference. In general it was deeply inspiring to be around so many students and professionals all concerned with the impact that business can make on our world. There were tons of great sessions, but I thought I would share a few that were particularly applicable to this project.
I attended a workshop hosted by 3M on "What Does It Mean to Improve a Life?" In it, each group broke out and worked together to come up with a one sentence answer. One of the points raised by another group member was the sustainable idea of empowerment through giving someone the tools to improve their community. This really rang true for my vision of my project. Yes I want the business to be financially sustainable, but more than that I truly believe that the success of our mission comes down to empowering people in their own communities.
There was also a fantastic workshop called "Goals Matter: Intel's Roadmap to Accelerating Diversity in Tech." In January 2015, Intel's CEO announced the company's goal to reach full representation of women and underrepresented groups in the US workforce by 2020. My group explored the role of academia and pipeline to this process. The extremely diverse group shared first-hand stories of diversity already existing in organizations that is underutilized because of bias about what a candidate for higher roles should look like. Although I started this project thinking about hiring and retention, this has me wondering about what sort of value we could provide in helping organizations realize more value from the employees they have through inclusion as well. Afterwards I spoke to several who were happy to share contact information to continue the conversation.
Later there was a featured panel titled "Demand Diversity and Embrace Innovation," which could not have been more closely aligned with my project interests if I had written it myself. The panel members from Plum Creek, Toyota and Johnson & Johnson Healthcare were themselves representative of a fantastic diversity of visible and invisible identity groups. They also confirmed my intuition about a lack of general awareness in STEM corporations of the therms intersectionality and allyship. Two panel members explicitly responded that they had never heard those terms although the explanation of them fit well with their experience. Just more evidence that choosing the right terminology is essential for communicating to my market the value that we can provide them with.
Finally as part of the closing keynote, we got to hear the 2015 Hult Prize winners IMPCT give their 10 minute pitch that in the end won them $1M to start their business. Not only was it interesting to see how it aligned with the concepts from our class, but their personal journey reemphasized how much failure and being told no was part of their eventual success. Very inspiring!