Dropbox leaders encourage SF students to join tech industry

San Francisco-based Dropbox is taking aim at an issue that has long plagued the tech industry: greater equity and diversity in the field.

The cloud sharing company tackled the issue earlier this week, with a panel discussion at Mission High School featuring CEO and founder Drew Houston and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi.

In attendance were Mission High students, partner organizations in the neighborhood like the Mission High School Foundation, and Judith Williams, the Global Head of Diversity for Dropbox, who moderated the panel.

“The intention behind the panel was for students who were interested in the tech sector, or entrepreneurship in general, to have exposure to the founders and say, ‘Hey, maybe I can do that too,’” said Joe Wheeler, the company’s director for Corporate Social Responsibility.

Dropbox first began it’s work with Mission High back in fall 2014, when it was partnered with the school via Circle the Schools, a program that matches San Francisco companies with schools in the area. According to Wheeler, the partnership has allowed Dropbox workers to work with students face-to-face and share their knowledge in STEM education.

“It’s about having a foundation and a baseline for people to be successful,” Wheeler said about the volunteer efforts at Mission High School.

Giving back to the community and increasing diversity in the tech industry has long been a priority for the company, Wheeler said. Dropbox lets employees annually take off four paid days to volunteer and also allows every employee to donate a Dropbox business account to a nonprofit of their choosing.

Besides working with Mission High School, the company has also partnered with other nonprofits in the area like 826 Valencia, which aims to increase writing in youths, and Mission Graduates, an organization that seeks to increase college readiness in the district’s students.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Wheeler said. “It’s not a compliance thing, or for our reputation. It’s coming from a very authentic interest.”

Tuesday’s panel was part of a larger volunteer event for the Dropbox, where approximately 400 employees from around the globe took time off to volunteer in their local communities.

“All of our (volunteer) efforts really focus on making tech more accessible to different people,” Wheeler said.

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