The following blog post, by Sarah Hodkinson, Director of Offers & Marketing at PayPal, was published on the PayPal Forward blog:
Technology advances through innovation. Innovation is catalyzed by challenging the status quo. And challenging the status quo requires diversity - different people from different walks of life with varying perspectives.
As an out gay woman, diversity in the tech industry is a matter near and dear to me. In addition to my day job here at PayPal, I also serve on the board of directors for StartOut.org, a national non-profit dedicated to fostering growth within the LGBT entrepreneurship community.
Our mission: Inspiring aspiring entrepreneurs to start companies, helping current entrepreneurs grow their businesses, and engaging successful entrepreneurs to support others. PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, was a former StartOut honoree for our annual awards recognizing pioneering LGBT tech leaders.
I recently had the pleasure of representing PayPal and StartOut at two pivotal events in the LGBT tech community.
I presented at Lesbians Who Tech, a two day summit in New York, joining a speaker line-up that included Sara Sperling, Facebook’s Head of Diversity, CNN’s Sally Kohn and LWT founder, Leanne Pittsford alongside up-and-coming lesbian entrepreneurs delivering heir elevator pitches. The event attracted over 300 attendees and it was refreshing to be surrounded by talented, driven and successful, queer and trans women, of all colors, in an industry typically dominated by straight white men.
And in July I was invited to attend the first ever LGBT Innovation Summit at the White House. This landmark event brought together 190 innovators and leaders in the LGBT and tech spaces to discuss how technology can address challenges faced by the community, pitch ideas and get inspired by speakers such as Google’s Megan Smith and Tim Gill of the Gill Foundation (and founder of Quark) along with officials from the Obama administration. Delegate attendees represented groups including LGBT Tech Partnership, Maven, NGLCC, oSTEM, Out for Undergrad, Out in Tech, Out Leadership, Reaching Out MBA, and Trans*H4CK in addition to StartOut.
I’m proud to represent PayPal at these events and I’m proud to be an out gay female leader in our organization. I am grateful for the support of my peers and colleagues that allows me to be so out without fear of repercussion, a luxury for many in LGBT community. I hope to inspire others across our company to be visible and to unapologetically wave the flag for diversity. Diversity drives innovation and that’s what we here at PayPal live and breathe.