By Heather Hiles (Founder & CEO, Pathbrite)
In the news, on a regular basis I’m being reminded that there are few women, women of color, African American CEO’s and founders in the technology space.
Last week I hosted the first offsite planning retreat of my startup, Pathbrite. As we went round the room listing the perceived strengths of our company (during our SWOT analysis), Derek surprised me with his comment: “As I look around this room, the people here look like the people in the neighborhood where I grew up. This is the first time in last 15 years I’ve worked in technology where I’ve worked with such a diverse group of people. I love it and I think this is a big advantage of ours.”
A lot of what my team of employees point out would never occur to me; that’s the beauty of working with people who all have different experiences, talents and perspectives than me. What’s funny is that Derek is a white male raised in a diverse community; I am an African American woman.
I realize that in some ways I take for granted that I can achieve anything for which I work hard enough. Sometimes black women do not take this assumption for granted. Additionally, it has been brought to my attention that I don’t “trip out” about the fact that all of my investors and board members are men so far, and that most rooms I go into I am the only woman and/or person of color. I just figure people will deal with me as long as I am adding value to their lives and move ahead.
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Photo credit: Lacy Atkins for San Francisco Chronicle.
About the guest blogger: Heather Hiles is Founder and CEO of Pathbrite, a career portfolio startup. Previously, Her roles include being the former Commissioner of San Francisco Unified School District, Executive Director of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, CEO of Hiles Group, Co-Founder of EARN, CEO of SFWorks (NGO to place women from welfare into careers) and COO of Break the Cycle. Heather holds a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Yale. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhiles.