4 Female Engineers of Color Accepted a Major Start-up Award Last Night

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Slack's female engineers, in formation.
Slack's female engineers, in formation.Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Crunchies — an awards ceremony hosted by TechCrunch whose name I can hardly believe — went down with a bang on Monday night, celebrating the coolest, smartest, and snazziest companies in tech. Sounds like fun! The event was hosted by Chelsea Peretti, whose opening monologue referenced both a hatred of white men and the prevalence of the one percent in the room. Is her forthrightness an indicator that the tech industry is gaining a modicum of self-awareness? Maybe!

That remains to be seen. But after self-awareness, one hopes progress isn’t far behind. While tech is still largely white and male, when the award for Fastest Rising Start-up was announced, instead of a group of white dudes convening onstage, four women of color accepted the award on behalf of Slack, the instant-messaging juggernaut.

“We’re engineers, so we came prepared,” the woman accepting the award began. “The idea that diversity at companies improves the culture and the bottom line may be somewhat controversial, but all we know is we’ve got 9 percent women of color engineering at Slack four of whom are up here tonight, in ‘Formation,’” Wink.

In early February, Slack re-reported its diversity data six months after doing so in September, as a response to how quickly they’ve grown. The report concluded that 43 percent of managers identify as women and 40 percent of the Slack staff is managed by women, while 8.9 percent of the company’s engineering arm is made up of black people. But hiring numbers don’t tell the full story. Erica Baker, an engineer at Slack whose role also focuses on in-company diversity, explained in February that she’s beginning to “encourage companies to go beyond the percentage of employees they have for numbers that they share. Share your retention numbers, that’s a great start.”