CogX stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the black community against racism, bigotry, and violence. The murder of George Floyd and the response of the police, state legislators and the administration to the resulting protests is only the latest evidence of the structural inequality that continues to challenge the United States.
Systemic bias and racism are also endemic in the UK. This is a moment to speak out in solidarity with black communities and amplify their voices in our own country and around the world, while acknowledging our own shortcomings.
We must use our voices to speak up and challenge the injustices all around us.
There are many challenges facing us; an example is the systemic and continued failure of companies across the board to represent diverse communities. The Evening Standard last year revealed that just 3% of London’s technology employees are black, despite making up 13% of the city’s population at the last census in 2011 – a number which is expected to have increased further when the 2021 census is published.
And there is perhaps no greater challenge for technology than the risk of bias in the implementation of technology. Last year the US National Institute of Standards and Technology uncovered bias in facial recognition algorithms, discovering they were up to 100 times more likely to falsely identify African-American faces than white. This of course has real-world implications, putting black people at a far higher risk of being falsely accused of a crime.
At CogX, we have worked hard to achieve equal representation across the festival. But still, some panels and sessions do not meet the standard for inclusivity and diversity that we would want – as of today 45% female speakers, 16% of speakers are BAME and 3.5% Black.
We commit now to take concrete action to ensure underrepresented voices are given a platform at the CogX festival in the years to come, and within our own team. We will transparently report our diversity each year, and ask that we are held accountable if we fail to improve – because we cannot create the lasting impact that we need without adequately representing society.
This year’s CogX festival will feature discussions around the critical issues of racism, discrimination, accessibility, bias and accountability. Advocates, activists and allies will join us to highlight these issues, discuss potential solutions and we hope our platform will help to move the conversation forward and inspire change.
This moment is perhaps like no other before it: if the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Kalief Browder and so many more did not wake the rest of the world up – despite the protestations of black communities – then perhaps one positive legacy of George Floyd’s murder could well be that this time, black voices do not go unheard and in all societies, we listen, project their voices, and stand with them to say Black Lives Matter.
We must do better. We will do better.
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