From the tech industry, to the financial industry, to the nonprofit industry, diversity is one of the top buzzwords of 2016. Organizations are exploring new ways to make their hiring practices more inclusive, as well as how to make their company cultures less hostile towards women and people of color, and how to make executive boards and advisory councils less overwhelmingly white and male. Women and people of color are selected as speakers at diversity events, asked to be members of “Diversity in Tech” panels, and commissioned to write articles about the struggle that women face in a male-dominated workplace.
While these efforts are a necessary step in the right direction, they are not the best way to cultivate true diversity. If organizations want to become truly diverse, they must hire more women, minorities, and veterans as experts in their own professional fields, not just as “diversity consultants.” PeopleFund has been recognized for their commitment to hiring both women and minorities, on the staff and the board, through Giving City Austin, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Texas Diversity Council. These organizations are continuing their track record of walking the diversity walk with their inaugural Innovation Week Houston event.
In its first year, the three-day event will feature 16 people of color as speakers and 14 women, meaning over 85% of the workshops will be led by minorities. PeopleFund Loan Officer Nini Gutierrez spoke about the event on Univision in early September, and a Spanish-speaking language session was added to the workshop line-up to accommodate the influx of interest from Spanish speakers. However, you won’t find these diverse professional leaders talking specifically about diversity; instead, you can sit in on a session about business law basics with attorney Crisarla Houston, a session about building your first website with Tanisha Dixon of Go TCG Webs, a session on project management essentials with LaToshia Norwood of L’Renee and Associates, a session on becoming a “networking ninja” with Curtis Wilson, and many more.
On Tuesday, September 20th, a resource fair will provide free professional headshots to attendees, courtesy of Jay Stevens Photography, as well as access to 10 other community vendors and organizations that provide career development and assistance for small businesses. Professional photography is often cost prohibitive to lower-income entrepreneurs and professionals. Free headshots can be of immense help in searching for jobs and applying for business capital.
Innovation Week was coordinated by Communications and Operations Specialist Jadeline Cao. During Innovation Week Austin in May, Ms. Cao organized a panel on “Developing a Diverse and Inclusive Austin Business Community” and made an effort to reach out to speakers from various racial and ethnic communities in Austin. After the overwhelmingly positive response to the panel, Ms. Cao has further honed in on the importance of speaker diversity in the Innovation Week Houston agenda.
Innovation Week Houston takes place September 19th-21st at the Leonel Castillo Community Center in Houston, TX.