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This year, MIT Solve launched the Antiracist Technology in the US Challenge to scale solutions by and for communities of color that will help create antiracist and equitable futures. Solve Partner Telva McGruder, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer of General Motors, is serving as a 2021 Challenge Leader for the Antiracist Technology in the US Challenge. In this role, she has helped select and support the seven most promising solutions to this Challenge and amplify the conversation around antiracist technology. Read our Q&A below to learn about how to promote inclusion in the tech industry.
Click here to watch Telva McGruder in our Solve Challenge Finals Closing Plenary, along with Ron Guerrier, Global Chief Information Officer of HP, and Antiracist Technology in the US Solver JusticeText.
What advice would you give to our new cohort of Antiracist Technology in the US Solver teams?
As an engineer, we are wired to look at a problem and try our best to solve it. My advice is that it’s going to require patience, understanding, and collaboration to ensure the technologies are not perpetuating societal inequalities. Give yourself grace as you are trying to change the world, but be persistent. The long-term impacts of your solutions may not be very clear today but take the time necessary to get it right. I am hopeful for the possibilities resulting from this new wave of technology and inspired by the best and brightest making the world a better, safer place for all.
As you were judging solutions for the 2021 Antiracist Technology in the US Challenge, what elements were most important to consider in designing antiracist technology?
Part of our journey at GM is creating a culture of inclusion, where everyone can share their capabilities and contribute to creating their best possible future. When that happens, people can do their best work. I feel the same way about the incredible innovators looking to solve such complex and deep-rooted issues through technology. I believe that you must include people, meet people where they are, and build solutions with them, not around them.
Our best solutions will materialize when we take an approach that involves the people in the communities we aim to serve. This critical element—the human factor—makes all the difference. If you build people into your process, not only will you find stronger solutions, but your solution will also lead to the best and most impactful outcome. That element of true inclusion was a key element in my reviews.
There’s a wave of technologies that have perpetuated racial inequity and exacerbated biases. Why is it essential to recognize these failures before attempting to build new antiracist technologies?
No matter what the challenge, in order to create new and innovative outcomes, we must be willing and able to dig deep, acknowledge, then seek to understand the current state. Only at that point, do we have the ability to improve and drive progress. This is especially true when there is a misconception of the quality of the current state. At GM, we encourage employees to think big and innovate both big step changes and smaller improvements. A continuous improvement mindset allows us to accept that failure and imperfection are part of the process, and they make us stronger.
When considering new technologies designed to decrease equity gaps with an anti-racist lens, recognition of the weaknesses of current technologies helps define the problems that must be solved for inclusion and equity. Beyond that, Solver teams should never underestimate the power of their own personal stories or the personal storytelling of others that often leads to greater technological outcomes. It's our personal stories, trials, and tribulations that help guide creators toward better solutions and influence change. At the same time, it’s the failures and personal trials that fuel us to look beyond our shortcomings and get it right.
How can we give greater voice and platform to proximate entrepreneurs of color that are serving their own communities?
At GM, we are committed to positively impacting the communities where we live and work. By supporting and investing in entrepreneurs of color, we are uplifting and empowering the next generation of innovators, changemakers, and problem-solvers. We can give greater voice and elevate their platforms through engaging, critical conversations, and collaboration within our communities.
We are on a mission to build the strongest mobility tech workforce in the world to make a larger, positive impact and create a greener, safer, more equitable future. Part of that ecosystem includes innovators like MIT Solver teams who partner with us to make us better and to help us produce better outcomes for our customers.