Editor’s Note – This column was written by Tracy Sternberg, the director of programs and sponsorship at the North Carolina Technology Association, NC TECH, following the conclusion of the NC TECH Diversity + Inclusion in TECH Summit, held this week in Durham, and is published exclusively on WRAL TechWire.  WRAL TechWire also covered the release of a new benchmarking report that found about 30 percent of surveyed employees had felt excluded at work in some capacity.


DURHAM – The theme “IT Takes Everyone” permeated the programming at Thursday’s Diversity + Inclusion in Tech Summit, hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association (NC TECH).

That’s because diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), is not a one-time, do-it-and-check-it-off thing.  Beyond the ethical and moral rationale for incorporating inclusion across an organization, there’s also a business imperative to do so.

While the 2022 summit was the third annual showcase on diversity and inclusion in technology organized by NC TECH, this was the first one held in person.

About 200 attendees joined in person at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham and an additional 60 joined virtually for the event, which was sponsored by Fidelity Investments as the presenting sponsor.

So, what happened?

30% of employees say they face exclusion in survey at NC firms in diversity study

From keynote to keynote

The opening keynote speaker, Heather Dowdy, Netflix’s first Director of Accessibility, shared many takeaways that both organizations and individuals could employ to improve their engagement with persons with disabilities.

She was followed by Rashida Hodge, a VP with Microsoft and NC TECH’s 2021 Tech Woman of the Year, who spoke about finding your voice, your vibe, and making yourself vulnerable on your personal and professional journey.

Keith Pigues with CulTRUE challenged the audience to ask: “Does your company have the culture you say it does?” and shared ways to improve employee fulfillment.

Inclusion Analytics shared the key findings of a new Diversity Benchmark Initiative, the first study of its kind in North Carolina, to measure how tech companies are doing in the DEI space.

And the summit’s closing keynote was delivered by Sterling Ingui, a Regional Site Leader with Fidelity, who talked about her journey as a diverse woman in tech.

She shared tips on how to drive innovation while growing individually.  The final speaker, Kurt Merriweather with the Diversity Movement, brought it all together in a call to action and encouraged attendees to create change through data, storytelling and conversations.

Diversity, equity, inclusion: Building a business case for companies to embrace DEI

Panels: From policy to resignations

In addition to the main stage speakers, there were five unique panels that included a public policy discussion on digital equity, one focused on the great resignation, another on the intersection of DEI and tech, a session dedicated to mental health in the workplace and another on how small and mid-sized companies can build and execute a strong DEI strategy.

There were several key takeaways that were repeated throughout the course of the day.

First, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not a one and done checkbox.  It takes hard work and needs to be practiced by everyone.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but there is a clear a business imperative.

Second, DEI practices and culture factor in to prospective employees’ decisions about whether to join a company or not.

Cultivating an inclusive culture where everyone feels they belong really does take everyone.

We at NC TECH are proud to be a leader in DEI in and across North Carolina’s technology sector.