SXSW Sydney Experience: At SXSW, the activation came to life on the big stage at Tumbalong Park, with numerous sessions and events. Knowing what I know now, it’s clear that planning your week at SXSW in advance is essential.
Deciding which sessions are a must-attend helps ensure you get the most out of the SXSW. There were a couple of sessions I couldn’t get into due to full capacity, resulting in a bit of a marathon as I rushed to another session. Ideally, attending as a group would be fantastic, allowing for joint decisions on which sessions to attend. This allows sharing of insights and inspiration amongst a team, including different perspectives and takeaways.
Session Highlights: One session I was part of, “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See,” explored changing the face of the technology sector. The panel, featured speakers from Xylo Systems, Chief Executive Camille Goldstone-Henry, Missing Perspectives Co-founder Hannah Diviney, Women Rising Founder Megan Dalla-Camina, and Women Love Tech Founder Robyn Foyster.
We delved into topics like women rising and mentorship for women in leadership. Camille’s narrative was particularly inspiring; she’s a conservationist who utilised tech to develop a platform for managing biodiverse footprints, which may soon require reporting by organisations. This initiative aligns perfectly with the Tech for Good category at the TechDiversity Awards, emphasising the impact of tech on life and the need to involve more people in the workforce for tech’s positive applications.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): During SXSW, there was a strong emphasis on the diversity of the workforce, equity, and inclusion. During my panel session, I highlighted the need to attract diverse talent into businesses and how this relates to AI. The conversation around AI and the impact of diversity on solution design is crucial and often keeps people awake at night.
AI and Beyond: Interestingly, nearly every session at SXSW touched on AI. It’s clear that the technology landscape is rapidly evolving, and there’s a growing awareness that a limited number of perspectives are involved in designing these technologies and solutions. To address this, it’s not just tech organisations but also corporates and enterprises that need to come together. We require experts from various fields, including non-technical skill sets to collaborate on solutions and support pathways for diverse skill sets, with a potential niche for recruitment agencies to play a role in this journey.
2024 and beyond thoughts: SXSW has its origins as an entertainment festival – film, media and music. Whilst many of the big tech companies had a presence at the inaugural Sydney event, I felt there was a missed opportunity for true engagement through activations and storytelling. Some of the stands felt more like a box-ticking exercise, rather than a showcase of their capabilities and potential.
I also had the privilege of attending Amy Webb’s enlightening session at SXSW Sydney, her thoughts on the intersection of AI and diversity left a profound impact. Here, I reflect on her insights in the context of our rapidly evolving technological landscape.
1. Blurring the Lines: Much like AI’s blurring of the lines between technology and humanity, diversity initiatives are evolving to embrace a more inclusive approach. By leveraging AI, we can transcend traditional boundaries, making diversity and inclusion more accessible and integral to our tech-driven world.
2. Data-Driven Diversity: Amy Webb highlighted the importance of data in AI, and this resonates deeply with diversity efforts. AI’s data-driven capabilities can uncover hidden biases and disparities, providing organisations with valuable insights to enhance their diversity and inclusion strategies.
3. Inclusive Decision-Making: AI’s impartiality offers a unique opportunity for more inclusive decision-making. Just as AI can remove human bias from processes, diversity efforts can benefit from objective algorithms that ensure opportunities are based on merit rather than demographics.
In Amy Webb’s insights, we find a parallel with the transformative role AI can play in shaping the future of diversity and inclusion. By embracing the blurring boundaries, leveraging data-driven insights, promoting inclusive decision-making, personalizing inclusion, and upholding ethical standards, we can harness AI’s potential to create a more equitable and diverse world.
For SXSW Sydney to gain a stronger foothold in the business and tech community in future years, there will need to be consideration for the ROI of the ticket value (and time investment) and what business learnings visitors will be able to gain by attending. What form could this take? Watch this space.
Yours in diversity, equity and inclusion