1. It’s no secret that the technology industry has a diversity problem. According to Catalyst, a "substantial gender gap in engineering and computer occupations contributes to women’s overall underrepresentation in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)" industry. Recent U.S. statistics have shown that in 2015, women made up less than 24% of those employed in the tech industry — even more appalling, less than 10% of scientists and engineers were women of color. If we’re to ensure that the advancement of technology and scientific discovery is to truly reflect the world around us and the people in it, then we must empower these phenomenal, Black women in the tech industry. 

LinkedIn's TransformHER Conference is designed for women of color in tech to build stronger relationships and leverage resources to advance. The program, which launched in 2018, was spearheaded by LinkedIn’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team to help women of color “up-level” themselves, their industries, and our society. Co-founded by Global Lead of Market Development, Tyrona "Ty" Heath, conference attendees will gain the tools, skills and resources necessary to further their careers and learn how to overcome the challenges women of color endure every day in the tech industry. 

  1. I had the pleasure to speak with Heath on why it's important to leverage resources for women of color in tech, what marketing objectives she recommends to achieve success, and how women of color can gain equity in the workplace.
  2. Check out our exclusive interview with Ty Heath below. 
  3. 21Ninety: How did the concept for TransformHER come to be? What inspired you to develop a program with LinkedIn catered to diversity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging for working women of color?

Tyrona Heath: I served as the President of LinkedIn's Black Inclusion Group for a year and change, between 2016 and 2018. And it had always been on my mind, as a goal for the work that we did within the Black Inclusion Group, to create events that lasted beyond the tenure as my time as President. Also, it always works better when you can collaborate and bring more communities into the fold. So I wanted to do as many programs as possible with other employee-resource groups. For example, one of the things that's important to know about TransformHER is that it was created out of a partnership between our Black Inclusion Group, Women At LinkedIn Group, and Hola!, our Latinx Inclusion Group. It was funded by our Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Organization but there was a coalition of people that came together to make it all possible. I'm passionate about up-leveling, advancing, making sure that there's economic opportunity for women of color. And when I joined LinkedIn, it seemed like the perfect place to bring this dream to life because with a home at LinkedIn, where we have that mission of bringing economic opportunity to the world's professionals, I couldn't be prouder of how it's grown. 

Photo: Piclarity

  1. 21N: Last month’s conference in New York City consisted of three distinct session tracks, each encompassing a different theme: build, thrive, and grow. Why is it important to not only educate WOC Professionals, but to empower them as well? 

TH: Absolutely. I think first there's a misconception about what people define as techs should space in the professional conversation. We're all human beings, and when we come to work, we bring our whole lives to that. And that's no different for women. In particular, we wanted to focus in on what the challenges and opportunities that women of color face not just in the workplace, but the impact of how we show up in the workplace. So, the three session tracks were built to do that. We have focus groups that generate the topics that would be of interest — we had a brunch and a dinner with women of color in San Francisco and New York — to understand what are things that are on the mind of women and what do we need to get to the next level. Even outside of work, what are the things that build into that professional presence in how you show up. How do you deal with entrepreneurship? How do you deal with microaggressions in the workplace? What does it look like to be well? What does it look like to deal with mental health in the workplace? All of these things are incredibly important, but I think often left out of the professional conversation. So I'm glad we are able to bring all of those tracks together and have those very real conversations at TransformHER.

Photo: Piclarity

  1. 21N: Do you offer any content packages for women who are unable to attend the TransformHER conferences?

TH: Yes, and that's really important to me. One of the reasons why I'm here at LinkedIn is because our platform allows us to take information and scale it broadly. This is something we are looking to expand. We have a LinkedIn Group that now has a couple of hundred members for TransformHER, so that's a place to continue the conversation because this should not be a one moment in time thing — it should be something that continues over time. We also live-streamed both sessions in New York and San Francisco, and that content is still available online for people to check out. Even weeks after the conferences, I'm still getting messages from people saying how much they enjoyed watching the live stream and that makes me very happy. And finally, this other we try to do is capture content while speakers are in session. So in New York, for example, we had interviews with key speakers at TransformHER and captured content that will then push out over LinkedIn's editorial platform. So the goal is definitely access because we know not everyone can attend New York and San Francisco, but there are people all over the country, and frankly, around the world who can benefit from the knowledge and expertise that's being shared.

Video: LinkedIn

  1. 21N: In addition to being the Lead for Agency and Partner Education at LinkedIn and the President of LinkedIn’s Black Inclusion Group (BIG), you also lead Inbound Marketing Courses to deep dive into the finest points and tactics of marketing. What are some beginning marketing objectives you recommend for WOC to achieve successful campaigns? 

TH: This is incredibly important. One of the things research has shown, and what we're hearing from women, is that we are not vocal enough about making apps or promoting our own brands. So this is an area that is really near-and-dear to my heart. As a marketer, I think one of the fundamental things to get started is to get connected to your why. For your business that you are marketing, what is the story and what is the reason you are trying to accomplish. What is the repeatable and consistent statement that you can share, and how do you then take stories that reinforce that message out in the market. Brands are built by consistent and repeatable deliveries of business services, but also of that message which builds trust. So the second piece would be to look at the processes and systems that you have in place to deliver on that promise, and make sure that it's as optimized as possible and that you're taking the feedback to refine it over time. And, of course, the final piece would be to know your audience to connect that promise. How am I solving this person's problem every day? How am I making their life easier? If you can do those things consistently, and continue learning and evolving over time, your brand will grow. 

Photo: Piclarity

  1. 21N: At the TransformHER conference in San Francisco, Forbes reported that you challenged attendees to “think about what they would like to create on the path to equity within the workplace.” What sort of action needs to occur for women to gain equal equity in the workplace?

TH: I wanted to make sure that people — well, of course, you want to inspire and move people and have them think differently. None of that works unless people are also taking action. We can talk about and acknowledge the obstacles and opportunities that women of color face, and at the same time, it's also important to drive a very real conversation around the actions we need to take to move things forward. For TransformHER, we're investing in two paths to equity for women of color. One of those paths is to unlock the support of allies, and have allies recognize that leadership today is connected to being able to manage and empower diverse groups of people. And for those leaders who choose to take on that opportunity may be a little uncomfortable, but that's what leadership today looks like. And that's how you address blind spots that can hold your business back and take advantage of opportunities that you may not have seen. 

The other path to equity for women of color, ourselves, to build economic opportunity and create wealth within our communities. This means empowerment so we can launch our own businesses, work together as a community to invest in each other, unlock the skillsets and potentials for more of us in leadership and decision-making positions. 

Between those two paths, that's why the conference is not just about women of color, it's also about allies coming together. If we continue to act, then we can make a real difference in the challenges and opportunities that we see for women of color.

Photo: Piclarity

  1. 21N: What can we expect to see from you and TransformHER in 2019? Are there any upcoming events WOC can attend in the near future? 

TH: Yes, a couple of things. We're getting all of the feedback together, we're getting all the content together, so expect to see more content coming out from our editorial team. Expect to see more content shared through the TransformHER Group. One of the things we're talking about is having another live brunch or dinner event in New York or San Francisco to continue to learn more about what needs we should be investing in. 

We are also having conversations about what does 2020 look like. From year one to year two, we expanded from just being in New York to now being in New York and San Francisco. For 2020, one of the things we're asking is if we expand to another city. So that could potentially be Chicago. It could also be London because that opens the opportunity to look at the needs for women of color in Europe and ask ourselves, what might we create to serve that community as well because the challenges are very real there. 

  1. Video: LinkedIn

  2. 21N: Do you have any final words of advice or encouragement for WOC Professionals who feel marginalized in the tech industry? 

  3. TH: Know that you are not alone. Know that there are communities of people who support you. Know that you are enough and keep being courageous. Keep stepping up, because things are changing. For all the challenges that we face, this is one of the best times for all of us to be alive. So it's important to have that historical context and also get connected to how far we've come, even though we still have a long way to go. 

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