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Why everyone should talk about diversity, according to TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot

“I have been ‘the only’ for most of my career.”

Kara Swisher for Recode

Stacy Brown-Philpot didn’t expect to be a tech CEO. Trained as an investment banker, she came to Silicon Valley out of sheer curiosity and landed a finance job at Google when it had only 1,000 employees.

"My mother said, ‘You know, if this Google thing doesn’t work out, you can always go back to public accounting,’" Brown-Philpot recalled on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. "Where I grew up, in Detroit, nobody knew what Google was. Nobody was searching for things on the internet all the time."

Years later, Brown-Philpot became the COO and then the CEO of TaskRabbit, but she said there’s still a big gap between Silicon Valley and everywhere else — and that has effects on everything from innovation to the much-debated issue of diversity in tech.

"I have been 'the only' for most of my career," Brown-Philpot said. "I walk into a room, there’s one or two black women. There aren’t that many, because the pipeline of talent just isn’t there."

"I know we overuse that word, but the fact of the matter is, when I go home to Detroit, there are people who don’t know that they could become the CEO of a tech company," she added.

She noted that speaking out about race and gender — and for her, as a black woman, getting involved in the community — is a must. She recalled both an impactful unconscious bias training session at TaskRabbit and a recent speech she gave at the company after the widely publicized shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers.

"I know what it’s like to be afraid of the police," Brown-Philpot said. "When you see a police officer, you don’t immediately feel safe. You wonder what you’ve done wrong and what could happen to you."

On the new podcast, Brown-Philpot also discussed the challenges TaskRabbit had to overcome in order to scale, why the broader sharing economy is likely to see consolidation and how TaskRabbit hopes to expand into new technologies.

"We think the technology around voice and messaging will be the next destination," she said, imagining a hypothetical use. "You’re in the kitchen; you say ‘Alexa, can you reschedule my weekly cleaning to Saturday?' Now your regular Tasker who comes on Sundays will come on Saturday."

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