Interviews and Reviews

What Tech Layoffs Could Mean For DEI Efforts; Interview with Marina Petrenko – Founder and CEO of

What Tech Layoffs Could Mean For DEI Efforts helps tech startups hire qualified and diverse talents. The company reserves 50% of seats for women in tech, and makes sure that women and minorities have a seat at the table. CEO Marina Petrenko has been in the DEI field for a while, launched WomenHack a few years ago, and now working on In this interview with TechBullion, Marina will be offering some insights on the new California law (that requires all employers based or hiring in the state to post salary ranges on all job listings), and what tech layoffs could mean for DEI efforts.

Please tell us more about yourself?

My name is Marina Petrenko and I’m a CEO and founder of an event company focusing on diversity recruiting events in the tech space called

The idea behind is simple: we bring together diverse IT professionals and members of dev/data, product, and UI/UX teams behind the key startups. Through an informative and relaxed 2-hour event, we connect potential job seekers with progressive teams, give them an opportunity to meet their future managers, and chat with VPs and CTOs in a no-pressure format. 

Tell us more about the company and the unique services you provide.

One of the key things about DNI is that at our events, we reserve 50% of seats for women in tech and underrepresented communities. When we work with our event attendees, we make sure that every group has a fair representation at our events, which frankly, is a big undertaking in itself. We also work with grassroots organizations supporting women in tech, LGBTQ communities, and those that empower black professionals. Every year we team up with one of them to share a percentage of our revenue and support their initiatives. In 2022, we teamed up with KyivPride to support Ukraine’s LGBTQ community impacted by Russia’s war. 

On the business side, we work with startups, established teams, and non-profits, and organize niche recruiting events in the tech space. With a relentless commitment to creativity, diversity, and world-class craft, we deliver the most meaningful and impactful experiences for our attendees. We have over 20 events set for 2022, but we will truly shine in 2023 with events in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Relentless research, segmentation, timely and effective marketing when it comes to attendee outreach is our motto. 

You launched WomenHack a few years ago and for your events, you reserve seats for women in tech. What inspired these DEI initiatives and what are your success stories so far?

I am a contemporary feminist. I believe in equality and think that we’re not there yet. I started my previous project five years ago, right at the beginning of the #Metoo movement. I was touched by Susan Fowler’s essay about her “very strange” year at Uber, and because I was outraged by the coarsening political environment. But most importantly, I saw a need for women-oriented tech events – and I was at the point in my career where I could make it happen.

 I lived in San Francisco in 2017, and I worked in the tech events space. At some point, I started wondering why there were approximately four women at every single tech event that I organized. The answer turned out to be simple: I chatted with one of the women, who told me she wasn’t particularly excited to attend because, among other things, there wasn’t any food that she would eat. Pizza and beer are the staple foods for tech events, which I also can’t claim to be my favorite. More importantly, she spoke about the lack of female role models in tech and the lack of female keynote speakers, and I always have her words in mind in my work.

 When I ran my first WomenHack event in San Francisco in February 2017 at CBS Interactive, I worked with the host team on all aspects of event management to make this session women-friendly: from food and beverages to music and keynote speakers. It was a huge success, and this event effectively changed my career trajectory. Until my last pre-pandemic in-person event, I communicated the importance of organizing women-friendly events.

 During my time at WomenHack, we helped thousands of women get middle and senior-level jobs, and it was particularly heartwarming to see them back at our events as keynote speakers and as part of hiring teams. In 2021, I left WomenHack to start DNI. Because we spend way more resources and time on sourcing niche mid and senior-level candidates, our hiring rates are very high.

 With DNI, I continue supporting women in tech to get what’s theirs: fair compensation for hours doing the same job as their male colleagues. I was very pleased to hear about the passing of the new California law that requires all employees to post salary ranges on all job listings. 

The new California law requires all employers based or hiring in the state to post salary ranges on all job listings. Do you think this is a step towards equity and equality in tech and why so?

The new law requires employers with 15 or more employees to include pay range in their job postings. My view is that this law will have a limited but positive impact on equity in tech, particularly for entry-level technical candidates – and will help them achieve economic security quicker. The law is a step towards pay equality and equal opportunity, but it shouldn’t mean that now we can abandon all the other initiatives.

Wage transparency, despite negative connotation, and more so transparency at every stage of the employment process, is a good thing as it fosters trust, fairness and often an increase in job satisfaction. At one of my early WomenHack events, I met a young woman who came to find a new job after learning that her male counterpart made almost 20% more than she did for the same entry-level technical job. She left her startup within three weeks after learning the news.

With the allegedly looming recession, the tech market is seeing slower hiring. Is this the opportunity for tech teams to address their diversity/inclusion initiatives, what could be the benefits?

Just the other day I read a warning from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon about a recession in six to nine months. Almost every other day I read about a new round of tech layoffs or hiring slowdowns spooking other industries. We all have been a little spoiled with tech companies’ traditionally bulletproof reputations for untrammeled growth, and indeed, they’ve had a stellar run. The future is uncertain, but every recession brings opportunities for those ready to realize them. The recession, should it happen, is an excellent opportunity to beef up tech teams with fantastic IT talent and boost their diversity inclusion initiatives, hire more women, and give opportunities to new talent entering the market this year. Recession is not the time to defund DEI, and I would even argue that implementing DEI into daily hiring processes is a way to go for many teams that look to address social justice in their bubble. The fact that there will be fewer resources to invest in talent development doesn’t mean that consumers, employees, or teams value DEI less. With a recession or without it, putting women’s and minorities’ rights on hold until the “time is right” is not right. 

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