Last Friday, people gathered for a tech conference in New York City — but it looked a bit different than what you might expect.
The event was LinkedIn’s second TransformHER conference, and instead of being filled with mostly white men, it brought together women professionals of color — and their allies — at the LinkedIn New York office in the Empire State Building. The program, which was launched in 2018, was spearheaded by LinkedIn’s Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging team to help women of color “up-level” themselves, their industries, and society.
“This is something I wanted to do since before I joined LinkedIn,” said TransformHER co-founder Tyrona “Ty” Heath, global lead, market development at LinkedIn. “With me being a teacher at heart and wanting to do an event that impacts my community, it just seemed like a natural fit and platform to have this kind of conversation.”
Speakers and panelists included professionals from LinkedIn, Google, and Facebook, as well as a number of founders and CEOs in diverse fields. The conference consisted of three distinct session tracks, each encompassing a different theme: build, thrive, and grow. No matter which track they chose, attendees left with a palpable feeling of empowerment and an understanding of what it takes to advance women of color — and how important community solidarity is in realizing that goal.
"Build" workshops and panels centered on how to succeed as an entrepreneur, from generating new ideas to securing funding and telling a unique story. The "thrive" track focused on authenticity and embracing individuality, touching upon everything from beauty standards to healthy life choices. "Grow" programming empowered attendees to shatter the glass ceiling — which for women of color is doubly challenging — and focus on personal growth as well as career advancement.
The conference has grown substantially in its first year, and Heath has big plans for the future of the initiative, including possibly taking the conference beyond its current two locations in San Francisco and New York City.
Heath also notes that the content from the conference will be packaged and scaled out to those who couldn’t make it in person. After all, her main priority is to create a ripple effect that will shift the status quo. “What I really wanted to do is figure out how to actually translate [these discussions] into tangible actions,” Heath told Refinery29. “I want people to understand that nothing changes unless we take action.”
“We don’t want this to be a one-time conversation,” Heath concluded. “I don’t want it to be just about what's happening in this room. We want to make sure the content will resonate and make a difference for people in their lives.”