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Mixtape podcast: Behind the curtain of diversity theater

It’s fair to say that most people have heard about diversity reports. And it’s probably also fair to say that most of us have watched, sometimes with a metaphorical bucket of buttered popcorn, as companies crisis-comms their ways out of … crises. But most of us do not know what goes on behind the scenes.
Mark S. Luckie has an idea. The digital strategist, journalist and author of “The Digital Journalist’s Handbook” and “DO U,” has written “Valley Girls,” a fictional portrayal of life behind the social curtain at popular tech company Elemynt. Particularly the journey of main …

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Mixtape podcast: Artificial intelligence and disability

Welcome back to Mixtape, the TechCrunch podcast that looks at the human element that powers technology.
For this episode we spoke with Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI Now Institute and Minderoo Research Professor at NYU; Mara Mills, associate professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU and co-director of the NYU Center for Disability Studies; and Sara Hendren, professor at Olin College of Engineering and author of the recently published What Can a Body Do: How We Meet the Built World.It was a wide-ranging discussion about artificial intelligence and disability. Hendren kicked us off by exploring the distinction …

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Pinterest’s $22.5M settlement highlights tech’s inequities, say former employees who alleged discrimination

When Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, formerly of Pinterest’s policy team, alleged racial and gender discrimination at Pinterest in June, the hope was for Pinterest to make them whole and address its culture of alleged discrimination, Ozoma told TechCrunch. But that’s not what happened.
Just two months later, former Pinterest COO Françoise Brougher sued Pinterest, alleging gender discrimination, which yesterday resulted in a $22.5 million settlement. As part of the settlement, Pinterest will pay $20 million to Brougher and her attorneys, the company wrote in a filing.
“It’s about as plain a case of disparate treatment and …

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Pinterest settles gender discrimination lawsuit with former COO for $22.5 million

Pinterest today announced it has settled the gender discrimination lawsuit brought forth by former COO Francoise Brougher. In August, Brougher sued Pinterest, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination.
As part of the settlement, Pinterest will pay $20 million to Brougher and her attorneys, and both Pinterest and Brougher will commit $2.5 million toward “Advancing women and underrepresented communities” in the tech industry, the company wrote in a filing.
“Pinterest recognizes the importance of fostering a workplace environment that is diverse, equitable and inclusive and will continue its actions to improve its culture,” Pinterest and Brougher said in a joint statement detailing …

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There’s no ‘hacker house’ geared toward undergraduate women, so they created one of their own

Hacker houses are making a comeback for entrepreneurs as remote work drags on. While founders are adapting to quarantine in style, a group of college women in their 20s aren’t waiting until they are done with undergraduate to plunge into the lifestyle themselves.
Started by college juniors Coco Sack and Kendall Titus, Womxn Ignite is a house for female and non-binary college undergraduates studying computer science. The idea was born out of Sack and Titus’s exhaustion with remote school at Yale and Stanford respectively. After too many boring Zoom lectures, they took gap semesters and searched for a …

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Mixtape podcast: Building a structural DEI response to a systemic issue with Y-Vonne Hutchinson

It’s time for another episode of Mixtape, where we take a look at diversity, inclusion, equity and the human labor that powers tech. This week we spoke to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, the CEO of ReadySet, a consulting firm that works with companies to create more inclusive and equitable work environments.

Hutchinson tells us that the work she did for 10 years in international human rights, labor rights law and advocacy helped prepare her for the work she does today.

“My last job was in Nicaragua where I was working with sugarcane workers who were dying of occupational illness,” she says. “And it was generational…that’s the power of structural violence. And work is like an incredible vector for that.”

She tells us she began to research international labor protection and pursue doctorate work, but instead decided to move to Silicon Valley in 2015 and pursue the future of work with ReadySet .

“Diversity, equity and inclusion was the future of work issue — who gets access to high opportunity employment and how people are treated at work and what that means for their own personal outcomes.”

Five years on from the launch of ReadySet, Hutchinson says she sees companies change the way they approach equitable workplaces. And it’s hard to avoid the fact that the pandemic, having locked us all in place to watch the video of police killing George Floyd, has had an impact on the way people navigate society’s structures of racism and policing.

“In terms of how our companies are responding, I definitely do see more of an emphasis on having a structural response, and thinking about their complicity and structurally exclusionary systems. What does that mean for them?” she says. “I think now there are some positive indications that companies are looking at that. They’re looking beyond just ‘let’s do an unconscious bias training,’ which is what they were asking for in 2015. And asking for more structural work — more work exclusively focused on anti-racism and really unpacking harm. But is that sustainable? Is that something that’s going to be continuing to the long term? You know, at this stage? I don’t know.”

More on this as well as an examination of what we can expect under a Biden administration. Click play above and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Dear Sophie: How will this election nail-biter affect immigration?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

The last 24 hours have been a nail-biter; I feel powerless and I’m angry that we’ve come to this. I’m worried things won’t improve and I’m confused about where we even stand.

Sometimes I just feel so very, very tired of the struggle. I am just so ready to let go. I want to live in a world where we can create harmony, peace and opportunity for all. Can I still find that in the United States?

— Wanting in Walnut Creek

Dear Wanting,

I hear you.

The good news is that there is great potential, even as the world watches the U.S. presidential election results. If anything, what the last four years have taught me is that two clichés are really true: necessity is the mother of invention, and, where there is a will, there is a way. I can relate to many folks around the world because I know what it’s like to have the world of Silicon Valley feel so close, yet so far away, at a time when I felt powerless to make a difference.

Looking back over the past four years, amazing things have been possible for our clients and my team at Alcorn Immigration Law. I founded the firm out of my kitchen just years ago when my kids were toddlers. I would look out my kitchen window hand-washing tiny baby dishes. I can still remember the feeling of the suds on my fingers as I gazed longingly at the tall building on Castro Street in downtown Mountain View where 500 Startups used to sit on the top floor. YC was just down the street.

I felt so powerless. I desperately wanted to make the world a better place, and reaching the world of Silicon Valley, even though it was just past my backyard, seemed like getting to Mars.

[embedded content]

From those humble beginnings to now, as I founded and bootstrapped Alcorn Immigration Law on my own journey of becoming a single mom, I know what’s possible, even during the last four years of the Trump administration. We’ve had amazing success — claiming thousands of victories in supporting companies, people and families to live and work legally in the United States. If I was able to grow my firm during the last four years, I know that it’s possible for anybody to follow their heart and succeed. It’s our human essence to long to be a creator in this world, and anybody can and deserves to make a difference.

And here is what else I know: immigration law is created by acts of Congress and signed into law by the president. Mere tweets may be intended to try to bend the rules, but they cannot break them. That is what democracy is about.

In democracy, we have agreed to abide by basic laws, such as the inviolable dignity of the human being and that we want to agree on procedures for how we make decisions, like the process of passing a law about immigration. Democracy is not about majority tyranny. Democracy is about the fact that we uphold a few principles and we agreed on a decision-making process. When Trump ignores our basic laws and he ignores our legal processes, democracy is in peril.

But democracy does not need to be disrupted, it only requires small adjustments to thrive. In any group it is possible to make jointly supported decisions, taking the needs and resources of all into consideration. “Although the world is complex and decision making is complex, the components of decision making are simple,” according to Richard Graf, founder of K-i-E. Simple tools like the DecisionMaker can allow a miracle to happen — in an environment of openness and anonymity, we can all safely share our needs and concerns so that proposals can be formed based on collective best practices, knowledge, experience, intelligence and intuition. Even if it’s a complex situation, the way forward can immediately become clear.

And in our democracy, the paths to live and work in the U.S. will always remain viable, even if we need to remove a branch or navigate around a new boulder. Here at Alcorn, despite the furor and fear-mongering present in the world surrounding immigration, we are continually securing real victories for our clients. Not a client yet? Global founders can still create a startup, pitch it to investors and secure pathways to live and work legally in the United States with visas, green cards and citizenship.

So I know this and will repeat: Whatever the election results, there will still be many ways for people to legally navigate the U.S. immigration process and access the opportunity and security of life here. For more insight on these ways, please join my Election Results Webinar next week.

In the meantime, here are my thoughts on how the election results will affect the future of U.S. immigration:

Looking ahead, if Biden takes the victory, he has pledged to undo all Trump-era immigration regulations in the first 100 days and support comprehensive immigration reform. He promised to promote immigrant entrepreneurship, which could finally mean a startup visa! He also wants to speed up naturalization, rescind the Muslim travel bans, pass legislation to expand the number of H-1Bs, increase the amount of employment-based green cards, exempt international STEM PhD graduates from needing to await a priority date, create a new type of green card to promote regional economic development and support immigrant entrepreneur incubators.

Alternatively, we can expect that a Trump administration would continue restricting immigration, leading to litigation and judges deciding the fate of many recent policies. We can foresee a continued COVID freeze on green card interviews at consulates.

Also, DHS recently announced its intent to remove the randomness from the H-1B lottery and prioritize the annual H-1B selection process from highest to lowest wage starting in spring 2021. I’m sure there will be litigation about this; in the meantime, Alcorn Immigration Law continues to recommend that all employers proceed with registering employees and candidates in the lottery as usual. These details will take time to shake out and we don’t want anybody to lose a chance at being selected.

In other updates, immigration is just continuing along and there is actually some great news for folks: The State Department recently released the November Visa Bulletin and it stayed the same from October. (If you think your priority date is current or may be current soon, please contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss filing your I-485 this month to avoid the possibility of retrogression in December!)

And if you need the freedom to build your startup, but were told that you don’t yet qualify for an O-1A visa, EB-1A or EB-2 NIW green card, you can join me in Extraordinary Ability Bootcamp with promo code DEARSOPHIE to receive 20% off.

We’re optimistic about the future. Life always offers us opportunities to grow through contrast and uncertainty, and we remain passionate about our mission to create greater freedom, empowerment, knowledge and love in the world.

Sophie


Have a question? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space. The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer here. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major podcast platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

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New GV partner Terri Burns has a simple investment thesis: Gen Z

In 2015, then-Twitter product manager Terri Burns penned a piece about staying optimistic despite the sexism and racism that exists expansively within tech. “America has broke my heart countless times, but I believe that technology can be a tool to mend some of the woes of the world and produce tools to better humanity,” she wrote.

“It’s hard to continue to believe this when the industry holding this power takes so little interest in the basic rights of women and people of color. I actively choose to remain hopeful under the belief that myself and many of the incredible people also working toward equality and justice in technology and in America will make a difference.”

Burns left Twitter in 2017 to join GV, formerly known as Google Ventures. Her hope has now been met with recognition. GV has promoted Terri Burns to partner, making her the first Black woman to hold that role — and the youngest ever. Making history comes with its own set of pressures and spotlight, but Burns seems focused on simply finding a new place to put her optimism and hope: Gen Z.

Read on for a Q&A with Burns about her investment thesis, role change and plans as partner.

TechCrunch: Before you were in venture, you held product roles at Venmo and Twitter. When did you know that computer science was the right field for you? 

Terri Burns: I grew up in Southern California, in Long Beach. And I think I’ve always just been a really curious kid. For me, I always spent a ton of time just asking questions and I always liked science. But, I actually did not have any interest in computer science until college.

I went to NYU and I remember thinking my freshman year, major-wise, that I’m not entirely sure what it is that I want to do. By chance, I happened to apply to this program called Google BOLD. It was a week-long program for people that are a little bit too young for a full-time internship. There we just talked about all the opportunities at Google that were not engineering.

It’s funny, I grew up in California, but growing in Long Beach, I didn’t know anything about Silicon Valley whatsoever. College was really the first time I had an introduction to Silicon Valley, to technology, to entrepreneurship, to Google. Even though [Google BOLD] was a nontechnical program, I was “I want to know what this coding thing is about.” So my sophomore year, when I went back to campus, I took my first computer science class. And that was the beginning.

What’s the most effective way to get on your radar without knowing you prior? Any anecdotes for how out of network founders grabbed your attention?

Yes! In fact, I met Suraya Shivji, the CEO of HAGS, through Twitter. I knew people who were buzzing about the company on Twitter, and I proactively reached out to her to do a virtual coffee. Social media, networking events and warm intros are pretty good paths. For what it’s worth, I read every cold email I receive as well; I’m just not able to respond to all of them!

What kind of companies will you always take a meeting with?

Mobile consumer and consumer in general is definitely what my background is in, and so I’ll always have a natural inclination
in consumer. I recognize that that’s broad, but I think software consumer companies are ones that I know and I understand. So that’s something I’m always going to lean into. One of the things that I really love about GV is that we are a generalist firm, which has also been a theme for me personally and something that I definitely want to uphold as an investor. Some other things that I’m interested in [are] fintech on the enterprise side and [ … ] enterprise collaboration tools.

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Uber Eats faces discrimination allegations over free delivery from Black-owned restaurants

Uber says it has received more than 8,500 demands for arbitration as a result of it ditching delivery fees for some Black-owned restaurants via Uber Eats.

Uber Eats made this change in June, following racial justice protests around the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Uber Eats said it wanted to make it easier for customers to support Black-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada. To qualify, the restaurant must be a small or medium-sized business and, therefore, not part of a franchise. In contrast, delivery fees are still in place for other restaurants.

In one of these claims, viewed by TechCrunch, a customer alleges Uber Eats violates the Unruh civil Rights Act by “charging discriminatory delivery fees based on race (of the business owner).” That claim seeks $12,000 as well as a permanent injunction that would prevent Uber from continuing to offer free delivery from Black-owned restaurants.

“We’re proud to support black-owned businesses with this initiative, as we know they’ve disproportionately been impacted by the health crisis,” Uber spokesperson Meghan Casserly said in a statement to TechCrunch. “We heard loud and clear from consumers this was a feature they wanted—and we’ll continue to make it a priority.”

The website soliciting customers says eligible people can make up to $4,000 in compensation if they have paid a delivery fee in California since June 4, 2020.

The arbitration demands are not super surprising, given that Sen. Ted Cruz said he expected Uber to face discrimination lawsuits from restaurants without Black ownership.

It’s also worth noting that the representative for the customer listed in the complaint is Consovoy McCarthy, whose partners include President Donald Trump lawyer William Consovoy and others.

TechCrunch has reached out to Consovoy McCarthy and will update this story if we hear back.

These complaints are reminiscent of one Microsoft is facing, though not at as high of a level. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor essentially accused Microsoft of “reverse racism” (not a real thing) for committing to hire more Black people at its predominantly white company.

Meanwhile, this is just one of many legal battles Uber is facing these days. On the worker side of Uber’s business, a California appeals court judge recently upheld a ruling granting a preliminary injunction to force both Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers as employees. However, that has yet to go into effect. That means all eyes are on Proposition 22, a California ballot measure backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart that seeks to keep gig workers classified as independent contractors.

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