Is There Room For Innovation In Diversity & Inclusion? A “Shared Value” Approach Can Bring It to Fruition

By Tara Chklovski

We’re so excited to share that Salesforce is partnering with Technovation for 2017-2018! We’ve been working with Salesforce for years, and are proud to partner with them for the upcoming season, expand the program, and inspire young women to see their power as creators and entrepreneurs. Check out the announcement from Salesforce, and read on for our CEO Tara’s perspective on our ongoing work with Salesforce.

Diversity and Inclusion wasn’t a term a few years ago as you can see from the Google Trends depiction of interest in this term from 2004 to now.

It is exciting to see the growing attention around engaging and supporting underrepresented groups in engineering and technology. And we can and should aim really high in these efforts. But there is also room for innovation here. The idea of “Shared Value” developed by Michael Porter (the leading authority on business strategy and competitiveness) is an intriguing challenge to explore here. What are the most innovative ways in which corporations can integrate social responsibility into their value chain? My favorite example is that of the Toyota Prius. Through the Prius, Toyota was able to move ahead as an environmentally conscious corporation, while also launching a hugely successful, innovative product.

Another notable example is that of CVS and its strategy to stop the sale of all tobacco products in 2014, foregoing $2 billion in sales revenue. Instead they launched a comprehensive smoking cessation program in stores and established themselves as thought leaders among health retailers.

Porter says that businesses acting as businesses (not just as charitable givers or compliance to corporate citizenship), opens up strategic opportunities to create competitive advantage, while driving the next wave of innovation, productivity, and economic growth.

That’s why I am drawn to the problem of how best to create “Shared Value” while thinking about Diversity and Inclusion — especially for the technology industry, where the value chain is focused mostly around human capital. One notable example has been Salesforce and their integrated 1-1-1 commitment to communities. We started working with Salesforce employees in 2014, engaging them as mentors in our 100-hour technology entrepreneurship program for girls – Technovation. Salesforce mentors supported teams of middle and high school girls to identify a problem in their community, develop a mobile app and launch a startup. 58% of mentors increased their technical skills around mobile computing, design thinking and product development, 67% increased their knowledge about entrepreneurship and 73% learned to be effective mentors.

WomenInCSThe girls were exposed to powerful role models from the tech industry, while learning first hand how to work in teams and launch a technical product and business plan. Through this deep, 100-hour mentorship experience, 78% of girls were more interested in Computer Science and 70% of students were more interested in Entrepreneurship (Technovation Lookback Report). This impact is significant considering the historical trend of women entering the field of Computer Science over the past 40 years (data taken from NCES). What we learned working together with Salesforce was that it takes time to develop and integrate a shared value strategy into a technology-based value chain. We started engaging Salesforce mentors and connecting them to Technovation girls in 2013. Since then more than 70 employees have supported girls all over the world to become technology entrepreneurs.

This year we are thrilled to go into our third season of collaboration, working closely with Salesforce to scale up, analyze our data more closely and improve the quality of learning for thousands of girls all over the world.

The best example of shared value in my opinion is still to be discovered for the technology industry. Most current examples are around skill based volunteering, job creation and workforce development, and are all very powerful starting points. However, I feel we can do more! I am excited to see if we can use our three years of past collaboration expertise to innovate further. We will bring unusual, real-world experiences to Salesforce employees and young girls, connecting groups and nationalities that would normally not come together so that they can problem solve and debug collaboratively. A successful shared value outcome would be the development of a new product or software delivery mechanism that brings direct value to Salesforce, while improving the communities the girls come from.

Here is an example of an unusual community and their first encounter with the power of mobile computing. Ancoraimes is a rural community 4 hours outside of La Paz, Bolivia.

Walking is the primary means of transportation for most people in Ancoraimes, as it is so remote and not easily accessible by road. In addition there is no currency that is used. People barter and exchange goods. Ten girls from Ancoraimes came together with the help of a passionate mentor, Pamela Gonzales, and created an unusual mobile app, Sarana, through which community members could scan QR codes posted on rocks for miles all around, to better use the large amounts of time they spent walking by learning their traditional language and some programming languages! (Pitch Video).

The possibilities are limitless if we are successfully able to connect more and more remote and underserved communities with high quality mentorship and training. And vice versa, for the mentoring corporations, the experiences their employees have may help in the development of new and innovative product lines and delivery mechanisms – creating true shared value.