Building a better startup scene: Techtown Portland companies take a diversity pledge

Every startup community that is not Silicon Valley goes through a phase of wanting to be “the next Silicon Valley.” It’s akin to adolescence. Where you idolize someone whom you have little potential of emulating. (I, for example, was going to be Hunter S. Thompson.) Portland, thankfully, is through that phase. We’ve moved beyond those teenage years of wanting to be the next Bay Area and are focused, instead, on becoming the next great Portland.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from others’—and our own—mistakes.

One of those areas that is preventing our startup scene from becoming a great, sustainable startup scene is diversity. One type of person cannot drive true innovation. A homogenous group cannot create products that apply to all people.

We need diversity. And we have the opportunity—with our startup scene being so young—to bake that diversity into our community sooner rather than later. While the ship is still easy enough to turn.

And Techtown Portland companies are taking the opportunity to do that. And here is the gist of the pledge each of them is taking:

Portland’s technology community has much to celebrate; however, when it comes to having an inclusive and diverse industry we must improve. Diversifying our workforce to include all from our community is the right thing to do, and the data shows it benefits us in terms of innovation, team functioning, and bottom line results.

The undersigned believe it is necessary to do more than just talk about the need for a more diverse tech sector. We believe collective action and accountability are required to address the underrepresentation of women and people of color in our industry. Given our industry’s history of tackling profound challenges, we believe we must tackle this challenge, too. Therefore, each of us has agreed to cultivate cultures of inclusion and create a plan for increasing diversity in our organizations.…

We will create community benchmarks and release our progress in an annual report. Our baseline information is available at TechtownPortland.com/diversity. To achieve these actions we are partnering with the Portland Development Commission, the City of Portland, and Worksystems, Inc. Through this partnership, we will develop tools to foster an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce. The coalition of companies listed below is just a start, and we invite you to join us. To join click the “Take the Pledge” button on our site.

If we are successful, our efforts will create a needed pool of talent for our industry and establish Portland as a place where everyone can have a fruitful career in technology. We have a long road ahead, but we are proud to be united to foster a more equitable and prosperous Portland.

This is a first step. But it’s a meaningful step. And it will take more companies to join to make Portland’s startup and tech scene truly diverse. But this is the beginning of something greater. And a better Portland.

For more information or to take the pledge, visit Techtown Portland