After James Damore’s infamous memo criticizing Google Inc.’s diversity programs hit the public eye Aug. 5, the furor was palpable. Within days, Damore was fired, and his very public battle with the technology giant since then ignited a furious discussion of how and even whether the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the tech industry should be encouraged.
That discussion no doubt will rage for years to come. But behind the bluster on both sides, a lot of folks have already been rolling up their sleeves and working on the problem instead of simply flapping their gums about it. In particular, a nonprofit called Iridescent has been working for years to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to underserved girls around the world.
As it happened, the awards ceremony of Iridescent’s annual Technovation Challenge World Pitch Competition, in which teams of girls pitched apps they built to solve community problems, was scheduled at Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters on Aug. 11. That was the very day Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai was forced to call off a planned all-hands meeting to discuss diversity in the wake of the Damore memo, because right-leaning groups threatened online harassment of employees. But Pichai did speak at Technovation, making an impassioned plea for women to come to Google and, by extension, other tech companies.
“I want you to know that there’s a place for you in this industry, there’s a place for you at Google,” he told the gathering of more than 900 girls, mentors and other supporters. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you.”
It’s a message that Iridescent founder and Chief Executive Officer Tara Chklovski (pictured, left) has been pushing for eight years at Iridescent. She and Technovation Global Ambassador Anar Simpson (right), who works as a special adviser for women, girls and technology at Mozilla Corp., spoke this week with SiliconANGLE Media CEO John Furrier at the Palo Alto, California studio of SiliconANGLE’s video unit theCUBE.