While the tech industry as a whole has shown more willingness than other corporate sectors to confront its lack of diversity, many technology companies continue to struggle with efforts to create a more diverse, equitable workforce. 

Recent reports show slow progress among prominent tech companies when it comes to hiring more employees from traditionally underrepresented groups. As an example, the number of Black employees in tech has continued to grow at an extremely slow pace, while representation from Latinx and Hispanic employees has fared only slightly better. 

As WP Engine looks to build on its company-led social responsibility initiatives aimed at improving parity in the tech industry, we proudly announced the launch of the Speak Up! Black Speakers in WordPress Workshop in February, which wrapped up in mid-June. 

The goal of the workshop was to support Black voices in the WordPress community and elevate community members to speaking roles at WordPress events. 

This primary focus was based on the role of speaking—at WordCamps, at industry events, and other forums—as one of the primary conduits for leadership development within the WordPress community. As such, the course focused on equipping attendees with the skills they need to speak in front of a variety of audiences.   

Designed in partnership with Diverse in Tech, a company dedicated to training people from traditionally underrepresented communities for speaking and leadership roles in tech, the workshop tackled everything from selecting and submitting speaking topics to conquering hurdles such as imposter syndrome. 

The workshop was hosted by WP Engine VP of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Culture, and Engagement Tarsha McCormick, Underrepresented in Tech Co-founder Allie Nimmons, and Diverse in Tech CEO Jill Binder.

“When we began planning this workshop, our goal was to provide participants with practical information they could put to use right away, and that’s exactly what happened,” McCormick said. 

“Focusing on event submissions and best practices allowed participants to walk away with actionable insights, which they can put to use immediately. As they do,  and as we see more parity across WordPress events and beyond, I’m confident that we’ll also see a more diverse set of leaders in the WordPress community and the tech industry as a whole.”

Participants themselves gave the workshop high marks for its content as well as the opportunity it presented for connecting with other Black speakers in WordPress.  

“Before I took the workshop, I was unable to identify other African-American/Black speakers in various areas of WordPress (Development, Design, Marketing, etc),” said Joe A Simpson Jr., a UX/A11Y advocate from Castaic, CA who is currently planning WordCamp Santa Clarita

“Thanks to this workshop, I was able to make connections and encourage the next wave of storytellers of our Open Source Project and its Community.”

“I would DEFINITELY recommend this workshop to anyone who is looking to achieve the necessary confidence level and tools to effectively put together submissions for events in tech. I wish that a hands-on workshop like this was available before I submitted my first topic for consideration!”

Ray Mitchell, the owner of Made for You Media in Winston-Salem, NC, also noted his positive takeaways from the course. 

“As a repeat speaker at WordCamps, I’m always thinking about how to make my presentations better,” Mitchell said. 

“I came away from the Speak Up! workshop with some practical ways to make my speaker submissions and presentations more effective.”

As one of the core creators of the content and a co-facilitator at this workshop, Binder noted how pleased she was to witness and take part in the workshop. 

“There was a real sense of magic in the room. It was incredibly valuable for participants to get to know each other and to workshop their dynamic and interesting talk ideas with people who look like them. I can’t wait for you and I to enjoy their talks at the events they speak at!”  

Speak Up! was also inspired by last August’s rebooted edition of the Genesis Community Livecast, “The Contributions and Challenges of the Black Community in WordPress,” which featured an interview with WordPress Co-creator Mike Little and Genesis community leaders Anita Carter and Sandee Jackson.

That discussion revolved around both the contributions members of the Black community have made to WordPress and Genesis, as well as the significant challenges they continue to face within the larger world of tech and the WordPress and Genesis communities specifically.

In response to the clear call for action made by Mike, Sandee, and Anita during that interview, Speak Up! was designed to create greater opportunity for Black voices and leaders to connect with other members of the WordPress community, and build a pathway for more inclusion at WordPress events and within the larger WordPress community. 

Find out more about WP Engine’s corporate social responsibility program Engine for Good and the ways we’re giving back to the community, increasing opportunity for all, and advancing the future of technology through multiple employee-led efforts.