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Why Big Tech needs to slow down: Meena Harris

·3 min read
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Millions more now know Meena Harris from her viral TikTok video, handing her Aunt and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “im-peach-mints.” But the 36-year old had already made a name for herself as the founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign and as a best-selling children’s book author.

Meena Harris is a mother of two and Bay Area native who has also worked in Big Tech. A Harvard University educated lawyer, she’s been an employee at both Facebook (FB) and Uber (UBER).

Her most recent children’s book, “Ambitious Girl,” features a young girl of color who won’t be stopped by those who think she’s too ambitious or too assertive. Harris was inspired by her aunt who is breaking barriers and ceilings in politics.

But Harris knows her former employers and others in tech have as much work to do when it comes to representation, diversity and inclusion.

“It's a big deep seated problem,” she told Yahoo Finance Presents. She credits the Black Lives Matter protests from last summer as “monumental” and really forcing a “reckoning.”

“As somebody who has been in tech and has been involved in these conversations around diversity and inclusion for ever and ever, I have never seen people step up in that way,” she said.

Also Read: Kamala Harris’s inauguration will normalize female ambition: Meena Harris

“Sometimes it takes slowing down”

While change may be slowly coming, Harris stresses that the work is hard

“Creating diverse spaces and inclusive spaces... It's not something that happens overnight,” she said.

In fact, it’s a complete shift from business as usual.

“There's this culture at Facebook, for example, where I was early on, ‘move fast and break things,’” she explained. “When you move fast and break things, that is a recipe for that happening at the expense of things like culture, and diversity and inclusion.”

“Sometimes it takes slowing down,” she added. “Maybe you're not breaking things. Maybe you're unpacking things.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Meena Harris attends the We Vote Next Summit September 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - Meena Harris attends the We Vote Next Summit September 29, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

Harris stresses that diversity cannot be an afterthought. It needs to be baked in from day one. For those in tech, it may mean not racing from one product launch to the next.

“The fact of the matter is you actually probably do have time, right? You have to make that decision and decide that it's important enough to slow things down a little bit,” she advises.

It’s a lesson she’s taken with her as she’s moved on from the tech industry.

“I'm dealing with this right now myself with building my company. It's very important to me. And yeah, I need certain things and help and I may have to wait because I'm committed to hiring underrepresented people from underrepresented communities,” she says.

First mover advantage may not be all there is to success.

Jen Rogers is an anchor for Yahoo Finance Live. Follow her on Twitter @JenSaidIt.

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