Editor’s note: in this piece, Anna reflects on her experience on Peak2Peak, one of the many Immersion Experiences the iSchool offers. Applications for the spring 2019 trips – EntreTech NYC, Spring Break in Silicon Valley, and TechTrek Chicago – are open now!

“Diversity is like being asked to a party, but being inclusive is like being asked to dance.” – Jack Ryder (CFO Microsoft America, ‘86 Alum)

How often do you hear the word “diversity” when a recruiter preaches their 30 second pitch? Can you truly have diversity without being inclusive? Does culture determine how diverse or inclusive a company is? These are questions that pop up within the discourse of this trending topic.

With Power, Comes Responsibility

This summer, I was given the opportunity to participate in the iSchool’s Peak2Peak immersion trip to explore this concept in the Seattle and Portland area. It’s unfortunate to think that the tech industry feels uninviting for some people.

At first glance, I thought that the reason behind that feeling was due to the idea that people of certain qualifications migrate and move to these rising central hubs, pushing everyone out, thus concluding to things such as gentrification. It was only after visiting tech startups such as TAO (Technology Association of Oregon) and Microsoft, that I learned that location isn’t the only issue with diversity in the tech industry.

Companies often use the term “culture” to reason out the lack of diversity. Although one can argue that culture is a real thing within companies, I don’t believe that’s true.

Diverse-in-ME, Incl-YOU-sive

As an individual, diversity starts with me — meaning it’s my responsibility to ask people of various backgrounds to join me. Being inclusive starts with you — meaning It’s also my responsibility to make genuine interactions, genuine connections, and build a strong bond with you .

The term “culture” is a scam to describe a work environment, and here’s why: It’s not enough to mix people of all backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand. Jack Ryder eloquently expressed that. In fact, his words became the firm guidelines to analyzing tech companies in the Seattle and Portland area. Companies can always say their culture is the best and rate it on a good to bad scale. 

All things considered from this trip, I am now a strong believer that an inclusive work environment starts with you and that diversity starts with me.