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Ellen Pao launches advocacy group to improve diversity in the tech industry

Ellen Pao launches advocacy group to improve diversity in the tech industry

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Ellen Pao, a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, today announced the launch of Project Include, an advocacy group aimed at improving diversity in the technology industry. The group was started by Pao and fellow female engineers and executives, including members of Slack, Pinterest, and other Bay Area VC firms. The initiative will focus on providing startups and established tech companies with information on making hiring more inclusive, improving retention, and examining bias in the workplace.

"Project Include started as dinner brainstorming sessions on how to make tech meaningfully more diverse," Pao said in a statement. "Today we’ve joined forces to provide CEOs with comprehensive tools–frameworks, research, metrics, and recommendations–for diversity and inclusion. And the early feedback we’ve heard repeatedly from CEOs is, ‘I wish I had had this earlier.’"

Project Include brings together Pao and other Bay Area engineers and VCs

Pao became embroiled in one of the most divisive debates in tech last year after suing her former employer, VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. She lost at trial and, later, stepped down from her position as interim CEO of Reddit following a severe harassment campaign. The harassment stemmed both from management decisions made at the site and opposition to her discrimination suit. Nonetheless, the episode became a telling example of how combating abusive behavior online and campaigning for diversity in tech can take a serious toll, especially on women who speak publicly about their experiences.

Project Include is also accepting as many as 18 startups, who can apply to receive recommendations through a program called Start-Up Include. "The CEO can’t do it alone. We want to give employees — including Diversity & Inclusion and People Operations leads — ways to convince others, especially CEOs who have not yet made diversity a priority," reads the project's website. "We want every tech employee to understand how diversity and inclusion helps everyone when designed thoughtfully. We also urge VCs to use their considerable influence to lead change in their firms and their portfolio companies."