Election day was on Tuesday, and while I typically avoid broaching the subject, I feel obliged to bring up the topic since our tech community was a central narrative in Seattle’s elections. And, as has been the case in recent months, we can expect the tech industry – particularly those with a significant presence in our community, like Facebook, Google and Amazon – to remain a focus of presidential candidates and Congress leading up to next year’s election.
Much of the discussion focused on Amazon’s $1.45 million in donations to Seattle’s city council races, a surprising number given the fact that the company spent just $25,000 four years ago. The move even prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders to weigh in on our city council election. Tech’s campaign involvement wasn’t limited to just big corporate donors, however. More than 300 employees at Amazon donated $143,000 to Seattle campaigns, while 200 Microsoft employees donated $40,000, and Facebook and Google employees both donated about $10,000, as reported by GeekWire last week.
With presidential candidates talking about AI and automation displacing workers, Facebook facing backlash for agreeing to run political ads, and Google weighing changes to its political ad policies, some of Seattle’s largest tech employers are sure to face the political spotlight over the next year. (And that’s before we start talking about data privacy concerns or any number of issues that politicians will raise regarding Jeff Bezos, Amazon and others).
While there’s no doubt the technology industry – “Big Tech” in particular – will likely serve as a political boogeyman for both parties throughout 2020, at New Tech we’re not interested in getting bogged down in politics. Because with impeachment proceedings, a presidential election and who knows what else around the corner, our hyper-partisan divide will in all likelihood intensify at an even more dizzying pace. As I wrote three years ago after the 2016 election, we’ll instead continue to focus on making a “difference to continue creating a more inclusive world.”
And our efforts intensify next week with the very first of our very first in a monthly series of Humanity in Tech events focused on promoting women, diversity, equity and inclusion in the region’s tech industry. These monthly events offer deeper experiences and opportunities to connect with peers, mentors and influencers leading the way on building a more inclusive Seattle tech community.
I’m excited to co-host this event with Elizabeth Scallon, who currently serves as the head of WeWork Labs for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Elizabeth is a rock star in our tech community, having spent the past 15 years advising startups and advocating on behalf of emerging tech industries. She also spent five years as director of CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington.
Joining Elizabeth and me for our feature interview is Deena Pierott, co-founder of Black Women in STEM 2.0, a group launched earlier this year to support, promote and inspire black women in STEM careers while also advocating for equitable and inclusive workplace environments that nurture diverse talent. In addition, Deena is founder of iUrban Teen, a nationally recognized STEM and arts education program that brings together underrepresented teens and young adults for career exploration and mentoring, and is also the founder of the International Black Women’s Collaborative, a networking group for women of color.
I hope you’ll join us at 6 p.m. next Thursday, Nov. 14 at Galvanize Seattle, 111 South Jackson Street, for our inaugural Humanity in Tech event! There you’ll discover the people, organizations and ideas that are building inclusion in your Seattle tech community – from startups to enterprise companies like Microsoft, eBay, Amazon and more.
Click here to register for the event as, like other New Tech events, there are no sales at the door. Hope to see you there!