»  "Innovation means being inclusive and promoting diversity," says young programmer Tracy Chou at the UNESCO Hi...
13.09.2017 -

"Innovation means being inclusive and promoting diversity," says young programmer Tracy Chou at the UNESCO High-Level Forum on Science in Guanajuato

The keynote address of the engineer, who revolutionized Pinterest, and who is leading an effort to promote inclusion and equity in software companies, drew hundreds of students from Guanajuato to the Forum organized by the UNESCO Office in Mexico and the state government.

 Guanajuato, Gto.- Companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other popular social platforms are automatically associated with innovation, yet several face major challenges in terms of social inclusion and gender equity, said Chou.  Four years ago, the engineer managed to force these software giants to analyze and discuss one of the main objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: gender equality.

"In many ways, the technology sector is very proud of being innovative, disruptive and an industry that defines the future but, in spite of this, it is backwards in other areas, specifically in diversity and inclusion", said the engineer in her keynote speech on Tuesday—the second day of the International Forum of High Level Innovation for Sustainable Development in Guanajuato, the summit event of the state´s Year of Innovation.

Chou was invited by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Government of Guanajuato and the Secretariat for Innovation, Science and Higher Education (SICES) to the High-Level Forum, where she asserted, "The right thing is to build a diverse and inclusive industry for all people of all origins (because diversity enriches all projects), but it's also the smart thing to do."

"To truly create a diverse business, we must understand it in terms of gender, race, social class, age and many other dimensions of identity," said the 30-year-old during her keynote address entitled, Tech Diversity 101.

Chou's activism around diversity and inclusion in software companies began in 2013, when through her blog she exposed the number of female engineers working at Pinterest (at the time 11 women out of 89 engineers) and through her blog she motivated other software and programming companies to do the same.

Tracy used social media to propose a question and a challenge, "Where are the numbers?”  Within a week, employees from more than 50 companies submitted their data, including Dropbox, Rent the Runway, Reddit and Mozilla.

"In 2014, Google was the first major technology company to release a detailed diversity report; other companies soon followed: LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Facebook and Apple.  From that point, the conversation about data transparency on diversity in tech companies rose to the governmental level, even Obama joined the conversation," she recalled.

According to Chou's figures, women composed 21 percent of Pinterest´s workforce in 2015, 21 percent at Apple, and 23 percent at Facebook. By 2016 (after the programmer´s challenge to tech companies), the figures increased to 26, 23 and 17 percent, respectively.

"Women experience such situations in all industries, as shown by the low number of women directives in every business.  Women have to walk a very thin line between being very aggressive or very submissive, " she said.

Addressing an audience of hundreds of young people, state officials, academics and professionals from Guanajuato, the engineer, the daughter of a Taiwanese couple of software developers who emigrated to Silicon Valley, called on the technology industry to be more inclusive because the benefits are not limited to just innovation, in terms of consumption and talent.  She called for rethinking the way in which individual contribution is understood within a team framework.

"Talent is not scarce; what we lack are opportunities," she claimed, and recommended that companies work on mentoring, career development and career growth opportunities. "

During the second day of the International Forum of High Level Innovation for Sustainable Development, three modules (4, 5 and 6) were developed: "Social Impulse for Sustainable Development", "Intellectual Protection and Social and Ethical Implications of Innovation" and "Effective Innovation".

Numerous experts participated in the Forum: Shuan Sadreghazi (United Nations University - Maastricht School of Governance); Sarah Bradshaw (University of Middlesex); Rémy Prud'homme (University of Paris-Est Créteil), Ramesh Srinivasan (University of California-Los Angeles); Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue (Cornell University); Éctor Jaime Ramírez Barba, Deputy President of the Board of Government and Political Coordination of the Congress of the State of Guanajuato and Miguel Valadéz Reyes, Magistrate President of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Judicial Council of Guanajuato.

Also, Albert Cortina (DTUM Study); Aurora Plomer (University of Bristol); Miguel Ángel Margáin González (Mexican Institute of Industrial Property); Rafael Escalona Reynoso (Global Innovation Index-Cornell University), spoke about new sources of growth driven by innovation, Can Huang (Zhejiang University), Ryan Song (Kyung Hee University) and David Bullon from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Costa Rica took part in the discussions.

Please look for the images here:

Related links:
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

Year of Innovation


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