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Participants in the Inclusive Investment panel at Tech Inclusion Seattle, a two-day conference. From left to right: Wayne Sutton, panel moderator and co-founder of Change Catalyst, an organization supporting diversity in tech; Joshua Pineault, managing partner of San Francisco’s VC Jump Canon; Rob Adams, director of Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington; Heather Redman, co-founder and managing partner of Seattle’s VC Flying Fish Partners; Shauna Causey, startup advisor and founder of Startup Women; and Chris DeVore, managing partner of Founders’ Co-op, a VC fund, and managing director of Techstars Seattle, a startup accelerator. (Photo GeekWire / Lisa Stiffler)

If you’re a minority in the tech world — whether it’s your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or a combination of those — and you want to support other people like yourself, don’t put your energy into nonprofit, feel-good efforts. Instead, says tech investor Heather Redman, focus on yourself.

“If you are underrepresented in whatever field you’re in … your number one priority should be to make yourself successful,” Redman said. 

“It’s not to help people in the same situation,” she said. “But instead go try and kick ass in business. That’s what we really need in order to change the face of power in this country.”

Heather Redman

Redman, a co-founder and managing partner of the Seattle venture capital firm Flying Fish Partners, spoke Wednesday at Tech Inclusion Seattle, a two-day conference, career fair and startup event. She was part of the “Inclusive Investment” panel. The event was hosted at the Seattle campus of Galvanize.

One of the key factors to building diversity is by showing leadership at the top, by setting an example and helping others visualize themselves in a field, said Redman. Others on the panel agreed.

“If you don’t see yourself in a population, you don’t feel at home there,” said Chris DeVore, managing partner of Founders’ Co-op, an early-stage venture fund, and managing director of Techstars Seattle, a startup accelerator.

Redman said that minorities shouldn’t bow out if and when they do become successful in their jobs. That achievement becomes an essential opportunity to show not only leadership, but the chance to reinvest in underrepresented players in the field.

“If you’ve been lucky enough to make money, don’t retire and garden or whatever the hell. Get back in the mix and put your money to work in the ecosystem,” Redman said. “I’m always saying to women and to minorities, get close to the money. So if you have it, make more of it.”

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