Addressing Discrimination and Speaking Up for What You’re Worth with Y-Vonne Hutchinson
Y-Vonne Hutchinson spoke recently at a Yale Women Innovators event at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY) about increasing diversity and inclusion in the tech space. Hutchinson is the founder of ReadySet, a diversity solutions consulting firm in Silicon Valley, and co-founder of Project Include, a community organization based in the Bay Area.
She never intended to become an entrepreneur. In fact, Hutchinson studied drama at Carnegie Mellon University before realizing that she wasn’t cut out for Broadway, and that her passion was in the thrill of the search for justice. Her career took a 180-degree turn as she received her J.D. from Harvard Law and travelled the world fighting for the rights of women in Afghanistan, refugees in Burma, and field workers in Nicaragua. But while working at a particular nonprofit under a demeaning boss, Hutchinson decided to carve her own career path – one that ensured everyone had an equal opportunity to work. It was then that she built ReadySet, which created a bridge between qualified diverse talent and worthy companies in Silicon Valley.
Throughout her journey, Hutchinson has amassed a handful of lessons that she shared with the audience. She said: “You should never be afraid to walk away from a toxic or bad situation.” This led to her second piece of advice, knowing when to say ‘no’ to an opportunity or engagement, and staying focused. In other words, she joked, “limiting the number of pies you have your hand in.” Her third piece of advice was to show love to your family and friends, as everyone needs a support system, someone to rant to, someone to share joy with, and everything in between. Family and friends, she stressed, are the people who will remind you of your potential and are the fuel source of entrepreneurs. Finally, she told the audience to know their worth and ask for it in money.
Hutchinson reminded the audience that although experience is great, work has tangible value. She discussed the wage gap between men and women and the even larger gap for women of color, and she encouraged everyone to fight for recognition of their value. Hutchinson related a story where she was asked to work for free, but demanded what she felt she should earn, and was in fact given double.
“Entrepreneurship is a war of attrition,” Hutchinson said. “Those who survive and continue to work, succeed, and those who give up, fail.” As she looked into the eyes of each woman in attendance, she powerfully encouraged everyone to continue to finesse their idea, to work towards their goal or venture, and never let that passion go.
During audience questions, one theme resonated: how to create a broader impact, whether it is helping a local community undergoing gentrification or strengthening student training as they enter the job force. To this, Y-Vonne answered that there is a strong relationship between better and stronger labor policy and sustainable change in the workplace.
The Yale Women Innovators Series happens most Tuesdays, 8:30-9:30am at Tsai CITY. Details & registration here.
Arsema Thomas (MPH '18) is a WE@Yale Coordinator at Tsai CITY.