The annual Diversity in Tech Symposium, held virtually on March 10 and 11, highlighted advancements in climate resilience and experts in climate tech and environmental justice.
The symposium, hosted by Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute, also emphasized the experiences of professionals advancing sustainable technologies within their organizations, as well as ways to promote diversity and environmental justice in technology fields.
“We’re doing a lot in terms of recruiting for diversity and bringing various perspectives because we want the heads, hearts and hands together on the climate solutions,” said Reshma Singh, a program director at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Incubating Market-Propelled Entrepreneurial-Mindset At the Labs and Beyond.
The summit was a collaborative effort with more than 50 speakers from diverse backgrounds, providing career networking opportunities for the future pioneers of sustainability.
The keynote speaker at the event was Margot Brown, vice president of Justice and Equity at the Environmental Defense Fund, who stressed the importance of focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups when implementing sustainable technologies.
“It is imperative when we work to advance innovation in all sectors that we think critically about the people and the communities who will be most impacted by environmental racism and the climate crisis,” Brown said during the event. “Environmental justice and climate justice are where every climate solution should begin.”
Several panels showcased how different companies are using advanced technologies to address the climate crisis.
The panel on technology as a sustainability force multiplier with Stephanie Nashawaty, SAP North America Chief Customer, focused on how technology can be used to help businesses implement sustainable models.
“Many individuals and companies want to be sustainable but technology is what makes it possible at scale,” Nashawaty said at the panel.
Nashawaty added that shifting to a circular economy — an economic system that best uses the number of finite resources available — can help businesses become more sustainable by reusing materials from old products to build future ones.
Besides focusing on how to drive sustainability at the core of businesses, the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, is pioneering an inclusive innovation and equitable entrepreneurship initiative to bring underrepresented minorities to the forefront of change, according to an address by Vice President for Research and Innovation at the UCOP Theresa Maldonado.
“We’re taking a deep dive into why we do not have a diverse culture within our UC innovation ecosystem,” Maldonado said at the panel. “The fact that underrepresented minorities are not in this space has led to $16 trillion losses in the U.S. GDP in the last 20 years.”
Maldonado was one of four recipients awarded the Athena Award during the event for promoting women and people of color in technology.
Closing out the event, Brown emphasized the importance of voting.
“The most important thing you can do around environmental justice and climate justice is vote,” Brown said. “It’s voting for the individuals who accept that climate change is real, and are doing their part to address the crisis.”