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Tech leaders will show how they’re solving societal problems at Disrupt SF


The tech industry can’t seem to keep its hands off of politics, diversity and social initiatives. And that’s a good thing.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, the tech industry’s focus on social and political issues has skyrocketed. In January, for example, many executives in the tech industry came out strongly against Trump’s immigration ban. Then, just last month, tech leaders spoke out against his ban of transgender people serving in the military.

At Disrupt San Francisco 2017, some of these tech leaders will speak not only about their tech, but also about how they’re tackling some of the biggest problems we face as a society.

Let’s take a look.

Bozoma Saint John, Uber’s new chief brand officer, joined the company in the midst of Uber’s scandals around sexual harassment, management issues and toxic culture. While she does not condone certain things that have happened at Uber in the past, representation is important to her and she wants to see change from the lens of diversity and inclusion, she told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

In March, Uber released its first-ever diversity report. Uber, like many other tech companies, is predominantly white and male. Although Saint John’s role does not officially entail diversity and inclusion (that’s Bernard Coleman’s job), it seems that she is committed to helping Uber evolve into a place that is representative of all types of people.

Just this month, Saint John joined the Girls Who Code board of directors to help inspire girls and ensure their success in attaining technical skills.

Tiffani Ashley Bell, co-founder of The Human Utility, has made it her mission to help people access clean, running water. The Y Combinator-backed nonprofit startup helps low-income people pay their bills when water companies try to shut off their access to this basic necessity.

Since July 2014, The Human Utility and its donors have helped more than 900 families in Detroit and Baltimore. Other than her work at The Human Utility, Bell has been an advocate for social justice, speaking out against police brutality and anti-blackness in the tech industry.

Sam Altman, president at startup accelerator Y Combinator, is no stranger to sticking out his neck for good. Last month, Altman launched The United Slate, a political initiative to tackle things like healthcare, lack of affordable housing in California and climate change.

As our country gears up for the 2018 midterm elections, Altman wants those candidates focused on enacting 10 policy goals: lower the cost of living (housing), implement a Medicare-for-all system, set target of 90 percent clean energy in the U.S. by 2050, top-notch education, tax system reform, shift 10 percent of annual defense budget to future tech R&D, fair trade and fair jobs, social safety net expansion, a fair government and better infrastructure.

“If we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, the economy will get much more efficient,” Altman writes on the United Slate. “We can use technology to do this effectively, and we should be able to do this at least as efficiently as China does it. This would be a good time for a New New Deal.”

As vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson is tasked with making sure Apple, which produces tens of millions of devices every fiscal quarter, doesn’t ruin the earth with all its packaging and tech gizmos.

Under Jackson’s leadership, Apple set a goal for itself, promising to only use renewable materials in its products in order to protect the environment. Doing so also helps protect against human rights abuses, such as using children to mine cobalt.

And back in 2015, Apple decided to spend nearly $2 billion to develop two new renewable energy data centers in Europe. All of this has happened thanks in part to Jackson.

TechCrunch is excited to have Jackson, Saint John, Bell and Altman join us onstage at Disrupt SF 2017 September 18-20. Given their respective passions for philanthropy, government overhaul, the environment and diversity, Disrupt SF is guaranteed to not only be the most innovative show you could attend, but one of the most socially conscious ones (in tech). Be sure to get your tickets here.

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