Dallas Entrepreneur Center Aims to Bridge Tech’s Diversity Divide

Opinion

The issue of gender and diversity is not a new challenge but one that has recently come to the forefront in a lot of our communities. There seems to be an awareness of the issues and an inherent need to address, but many are still conflicted how to best move forward. I think the best way to address these challenges/opportunities is recognize that it is incumbent upon us, the innovation community, to reach out to build a more inclusive community.

There are facts: Women are not treated equally to men in the marketplace; minorities do not always have the same opportunities to be successful as others. What is not true is that everyone wants to ignore and not address these issues or find a way to remedy them.

The first step is to begin a conversation. This can often be an uncomfortable conversation because of the fear of offending a certain group or community. Second, we need to then engage. We need to attempt to not just sympathize with our counterparts, but attempt to empathize with the place they are coming from.

Once we are able to more fully understand the issues and problems from their perspective, we can then begin to make progress. Third and finally, we need to act. By the very nature of the term, “innovative community,” it is our role to think ahead, to lead, to embrace change, and lead real progress.

As innovators, we are curious, we are accepting of new angles, ideas, and perspectives. (Even if it seems that in Silicon Valley that philosophy doesn’t seem to be reflected in tech workplaces there.)

My argument is that it is only through true inclusion that we will ever fully be innovative. I like the approach that our entrepreneurial community is taking to address this as an opportunity.

This past year, we at The Dallas Entrepreneur Center have:

  • Helped put on the first Top 25 Women In Technology Event with TeXchange and the Dallas Business Journal
  • Held an event with Tech Wildcatters around women entrepreneurs
  • Signed a partnership with the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to work with them to help Latino entrepreneurs North Texas
  • Are in the process of signing a similar deal with the Black Chamber of Commerce in Dallas.
  • Have supported and partnered in initiatives like the Lemonade Day Dallas organization

The thing I love about entrepreneurship is that entrepreneurship doesn’t care how old you are, what color you are, or what gender you are. Entrepreneurship doesn’t ask for your proof of citizenship or sexual orientation.

Our goal at the Dallas Entrepreneurship Center in 2015 will be to continue to reach out to different minority groups and include them in the programs that we are building.

We are continuing to build programs that boost entrepreneurs in diverse communities. So far, we are working on:

  • Putting on the first Startup Weekend Women in Dallas.
  • Putting on another Top 25 Women in Technology Event—we secured and brought in most of the speakers for last year’s event.

We are engaging with these communities so that they can help us develop programs to meet the needs of our entrepreneurial constituencies. We are going to take a dedicated and focused approach to educate the community that ALL entrepreneurs are welcome, equal, and have the right to the same support, tools and resources necessary to build and grow a company.

When we neglect to include any one group or class, what we are really doing is missing out on creating a more dynamic environment full of ideas, innovative attitudes, and relationships that could expand the horizons of what is possible in our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

[Editor’s note: To tap into the wisdom of our distinguished group of Xconomists, we asked a few of them to answer this question heading into 2015: How should the innovation community solve its gender and diversity problems? You can see other questions and answers here.]

Trey Bowles is the founder and CEO of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. Follow @treybowles

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  • Julie Myers

    I definitely think it is a good idea to start working on diversity in the workplace. Since women are so often not treated equally, I think it is a very good idea to be sure that in my office, we do our best to be sure that they are. I think that it would be really great to look into programs like these that you suggest that help women do better at work. As I am looking for solutions, I also think it would be a good idea to look at some other examples of how other businesses take care of any possible problems with diversity. http://www.diversityinc.com/ibm/