A Silicon Valley Lifer Talks Diversity In Tech

A Silicon Valley Lifer Talks Diversity In Tech

“It’s really hard, isn’t it?”

It had been a year since I first talked to Freada Kapor Klein, the founder of the Level Playing Institute, investor, and outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in technology. Our first conversation was during the reporting for Fortune’s Leading While Black, a look at what was keeping black men out of executive ranks. It was also my first foray into diversity as a beat. When we spoke again two weeks ago, we talked about the year I’d spent reporting on the diversity efforts in the corporate world. She greeted me like a seasoned veteran. “Now you really know how tough this work actually is.”

Few can hold a candle to Kapor Klein when it comes to doing the work. “I go back to the Paleolithic era, when I was hired at Lotus,” she says with a laugh. It was 1984, and her first employee relations job. Already a longtime advocate for women, she’d made the call early on that a critical part of diversity and inclusion had to involve a safe complaint and communication channel that would allow employees to anonymously ask a question or air delicate grievances. “It was a hard thing to do, there were some legal risks to consider,” she said. But when the CEO pulled star engineers to build the internal tool, it sent a message. “It’s got to come from the top.”

Today, she says CEO engagement is essential, but only if they are consistent and persistent in pursuit of measurable milestones. More than just a checklist or a tweak to recruiting methods, the effort has got to be systemic. “When a leader makes a statement they are raising expectations. And the failure to deliver on that generates huge cynicism.”

Read more: http://fortune.com/2017/01/25/a-silicon-valley-lifer-talks-diversity-in-tech/