Out in Tech PDX: Equity by Design

by | Tech Employment

On Wednesday, October 16th, the ProFocus team joined the Out In Tech Portland chapter for their first QTPOC (Queer/Trans People of Color) panel on Equity By Design. The distinguished panel discussed issues around designing for equity and inclusion while sharing their personal and professional experiences.


Out in Tech PDX’s first QTPOC (Queer/Trans People of Color) panel on Equity By Design on 10/16/19.

Heldáy de la Cruz is a graphic designer and illustrator living in the Portland area that dabbles in different mediums in the art world but focuses primarily on illustration and hand-lettered typography. Cruz currently works as the in-house Designer at Ecotrust.

Simon Sotelo is a multidisciplinary creative who provides strategic problem solving for creative agencies and brands. As a Senior Designer & Lead Illustrator at The Fiction Tribe, Sotelo works with large to medium-sized tech companies.

Melodee Dudley is a multi-discipline creative based in Portland, Oregon, and best known as a designer. Dudley currently works at Nike as a Digital Designer where she is passionate about crafting powerful visuals and creating memorable user-focused experiences.

The event was hosted at Swift’s NW Portland offices.

The event started out by addressing the definitions as stated by Creative Reaction Lab’s Field Guide for Equity-Centered Community Design.

Diversity – Diversity is when there is a variety of characteristics within a group, such as a neighborhood, school, community, or city. Diversity is defined by a variety of identifiers and characteristics that, in the case of people, reflects our individuality. However, definitions of diversity are often limited and largely confined to visible aspects such as race, age, or gender rather than less visible aspects such as ability status, nationality, or mental well-being.

Inclusion – Inclusion is the leveraging of difference by integrating diverse
perspectives and creating a better outcome for all. Inclusion is an invitation that not only accepts differences, but celebrates and embeds them.

Note: Diversity and inclusion are not interchangeable. There can be diversity without inclusion and inclusion without diversity.

Equity – Equity revolves around systemic outcomes and exists when
outcomes are no longer predicted by any aspect of an individual’s identity.


Event organizer Abel Quintero began by asking panelists a variety of questions regarding diversity and equity in their design work and their workplace. Here are some of the pain points they highlighted:

  • Feeling like their ideas aren’t acknowledged or validated until a white cisgender male coworker reiterates the idea in a meeting.
  • Being boxed in.
  • Not being able to be yourself at work. Fear of whitewashing your identity to fit into a conversation or a work culture.
  • Wondering “what doesn’t get said in front of me?”.

The panelists also shared their insights and advice with the Out in Tech community members in attendance. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

How do you communicate about diversity and equity with people in power?

  • Seek outside professional resources.
  • Check out this article called Designer vs Corporation.
  • Diversity can’t be talked about using statistics.
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

What can our community do to continue to address equity and inclusion issues?

  • Understand you can’t self-identify as an ally.
  • Remember that location is important when creating events or opportunities. Often the intended audience isn’t located in the Pearl District.
  • Transparent hiring practices. Transparent pay.
  • Create a culture of belonging.
  • Workplaces need to go beyond equality to liberation. But understand that our society doesn’t even know what that feels like.
  • “Speak your truth even if your voice shakes.” ― Maggie Kuhn
  • Trust.

What should those in staffing be aware of? 

  • HR is viewed as an entity that is there to protect the company, not the individual.
  • The token POC is a real thing. And it needs to stop.
  • The term “culture fit” is misleading and harmful.
  • Annual reviews are important to understand the desired growth/development of employees.
  • The question “why are you looking for a new job” can be triggering and not an easy answer to give. 

The panelists’ honesty and openness about their own struggles highlighted that the Portland area, along with the rest of the country has a long way to go when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Here are some of the groups and organizations that are supporting those efforts in the Silicon Forest and across the country:

Awaken – They empower leaders and teams to lead inclusively and authentically, through modern, interactive, and action-oriented workshops.

Portland in Color – Portland in color seeks to disrupt the homogeneity of representation in Portland arts and media by highlighting the voices and experiences of people of color.

openhaus coworking – openHAUS is a POC, woman-owned and operated business, and seeks to create space for all people to achieve their most inspired, industrious work.

Thank you to Out in Tech PDX for organizing the event.

Thank you to the organizers from Out In Tech and to Swift for hosting this event for the community. ProFocus was happy to sponsor food for this event. If you or someone you know is seeking sponsorship for a tech-related event in the Portland area, please reach out to the operations coordinator at ProFocus, Madeline Kenney.

ProFocus Technology is an award-winning consulting and staffing company helping grow the Silicon Forest. To learn more about tech hiring and navigating tech careers check out our next event on 10/23/19 at Smarsh here.

Out in Tech hosts a variety of events for the PDX community. The next event is a social on Tuesday, November 5th at Zapproved. Check out the event and register here.


Out in Tech unites the LGBTQ+ tech community. We do this by creating opportunities for our 30,000+ members to advance their careers, grow their networks, and leverage tech for social change. For more, visit outintech.com.


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We get to know our clients and candidates in detail and only carefully introduce a small number of candidates that fit the role well.