Diversidays is a non-profit that focuses on promoting diversity and opportunity across the French tech ecosystem. Anthony Babkine and Mounira Hamdi co-founded the association in 2017 following their own experiences as the children of immigrants living in Évry-Courcouronnes, a suburb 15km south of Paris.
Since its founding, Diversidays has become an influential force in a nation that struggles to address issues of representation. The association takes a broad view of its mission, addressing discrimination by age, gender, race, disabilities, social status, and educational background.
Over the past 6 years, the non-profit has helped more than 10,000 people through its three main programs:
- Tech Your Place: Helping startups and VCs become more inclusive in their management and recruitment practices.
- DéClics Numériques: An online program for re-training people for jobs in the digital sector, particularly people with disabilities, from low-income neighborhoods, and rural regions.
- Leadership Program: Boosting entrepreneurship through intensive workshops with people who haven’t followed the classic French educational and work backgrounds.
This work has made CEO Babkine a prominent figure in the movement for greater inclusion. He’s been named a “Leaders to Watch” by Google.org, the company’s philanthropic wing. Diversidays partners with the mega-tech conference Viva Technology each year to run a track on diversity and pitch competition for some of its entrepreneurs. Last year, President Emmanuel Macron swung by the Diversidays stage at Viva Tech to salute the work and congratulate the participants.
Despite these efforts, the numbers around diversity have only improved incrementally. Babkine said it’s more important than ever that this topic become a priority amid a rapidly evolving economy that risks leaving many people behind.
“We will have a big problem because by 2030 the tech ecosystem will be the first employer in France and Europe,” Babkine said. “Tech companies have a huge responsibility to change the way they behave and recruit."
Here is an edited excerpt of our conversation:
Q: How did you and Mounira first decide to create Diversidays?
AB: We were students together from the southern part of Paris. We call it the suburbs, but sometimes people don't understand that we're really close to Paris. But it feels really far because we don't have the same universities, we don't have the same network, we don't have the same professional opportunity. Mounira and I would talk about social class and about how we had been able to go to university, but our parents didn't have this chance.
We noticed quickly after our studies that the tech ecosystem wasn't diverse. In the beginning, it wasn't really a problem for us because we didn't realize it was that huge. We noticed at the beginning that women were really absent. But after a few years of experience in the tech ecosystem, we noticed that all the minorities, all the people from different backgrounds with disabilities, with maybe not having the baccalaureate (high school degree), or who didn't go to a Grand École, didn’t have the same chance inside the tech ecosystem.
So, we created Diversidays to help people be a part of the tech ecosystem.