Monday, June 24, 2013

Nonprofit Aims to Increase Racial and Gender Diversity in the Innovation Economy

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Hank Williams (center) with guests at a NYC event for hosted at the home of Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn. to host inaugural TED-style summit at MIT Media Lab, July 12-14th

In November 2011, Hank Williams, technologist and entrepreneur, was profiled in the CNN “Black In America” series, The New Promised Land - Silicon Valley.  Its focus was on the lack of diversity in the high-tech sector.  That experience and the media aftermath had a profound impact on Hank, motivating him to make a difference.

“Given the fact that there is an alarming lack of both racial and gender diversity among people engaged in the innovation economy, it merits significant attention,” says Hank Williams.  “Every bit of growth that matters in our economy is being driven by things like digital technology, algorithms, physics, materials science, bio-tech, and computing, and that growth is overwhelming all other sectors.  In 2012, the innovation economy is the economy.  So if all of the significant growth that we can expect going forward is coming from fields in which vast blocks of people have essentially no participation or engagement, then we’re clearly heading for trouble.”

Hank’s belief is that to fix this problem we need to do two things.  First we must massively increase the number of people from underrepresented groups that aspire to engage in the innovation economy. Then we must eliminate the barriers that prevent engagement, or if not, help people navigate around those barriers.   As a solution, Hank founded, a nonprofit organization with the mission to address these issues. 

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Guests at the NYC event

On July 12-14, 2013, the organization will host the Platform Summit, a groundbreaking networking event and conference on innovation with an emphasis on communities historically underrepresented in the innovation economy, especially blacks, Latinos, and women.  The Platform Summit will gather the world’s foremost thinkers and doers to explore new ideas and support increased engagement and wealth creation in this highest-growth sector of the economy.  The 2.5 day summit will be held at the world renowned MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, MA.  This intellectual and business playground will enable attendees to think big and commune with luminaries in a relaxed yet stimulating environment.

Respected supporters, including General Colin Powell, Hollywood power brokers Christy Haubegger and Charles King, music impresario Quincy Jones, and technology industry legend Mitch Kapor, have joined the movement.

Hank’s mission is a long-term one that will not be achieved in a single year.   But his first step is to build into an entity that singularly stands for this issue.  His goal is to inspire the next generation while also demonstrating to the mainstream — to the gatekeepers, to the powers that be — the talent, insight and opportunity that exists within these underrepresented groups.

Hank shares, “We can no longer afford to leave 70% of our population out of the solutions creation business, which is the purview of the innovation economy.  I believe is critically important if we are going to, as a nation, secure the best possible future.  We need a more open discussion of the issue of race in technology.  Also, if we don’t fix this problem, it’s going to accelerate an already dangerous level of wealth inequality in our country.”

To learn more, visit For summit non profit and group ticket rates, contact Andrea Hoffman at Diversity Affluence,

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