Design

This Tech Company Sent Four Black Women Engineers to Accept Award at the Crunchies

by Tasbeeh Herwees

February 10, 2016

 

The tech industry has long grappled with its lack of diversity but at the 9th Annual Crunchies Awards (one of the biggest awards events for the Silicon Valley set) on Monday, the issue was a prominent theme among an elite that desperately wants the world to know that it is capable of self-awareness. In addition to comedian and awards show host Chelsea Peretti’s caustic humor (“I hate all white men,” said Peretti. “Sorry everybody here.”), which made frequent reference to the overwhelming whiteness of tech companies, the awards also included a category mystifyingly titled “Include Diversity”.

And when the award for Fastest Rising Startup went out to the team at Slack (a messaging app), four black women engineers went up to accept the trophy—Megan Anctil, Erica Baker, Kiné Camara, and Duretti Hirpa. Tthey did not waste the opportunity to celebrate the diversity of Slack’s team.

"We're engineers, so we came prepared,” said Camara. “There are many things that are major keys to the success of Slack, not least of which are diversity and exclusion.”

“The idea that diversity at companies improves the culture and the bottom line may be somewhat controversial, but all we know is we've got 9 percent women of color engineering at Slack — four of whom are up here tonight, in 'Formation’,” she said, making a cheeky reference to Beyoncé’s new single. “We’re the fastest growing enterprise, software start-up of all time, so…”

Earlier this year, Fortune called Slack one of the youngest billion-dollar companies in Silicon Valley. The company has made an early habit of reporting its diversity figures—just this month, they released new figures reporting that women comprised 43 percent of their managers and that black employees comprised almost 7 percent of their technical staff. Perhaps other companies could learn from Slack’s success—Twitter, where black people only comprise 3 percent of the employees, faced much criticism last year when it hired a white man as its head of diversity (this month, Twitter shares plummeted in value. Coincidence? Probably, but I prefer to wildly speculate.) 

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This Tech Company Sent Four Black Women Engineers to Accept Award at the Crunchies