Gender, racial equality a lifelong passion for Freada Kapor Klein

Freada Kapor Klein, a pioneer within tech, pushing for cultural diversity and equality: “I’m of the school that none of us are free until all of us are free. If there is any injustice, then we’re all suffering from it.”

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Freada Kapor Klein is a rare type of social change-maker/philanthropist. The Oakland resident had long been a national leader in pursuing gender and racial equality before she started writing checks to help make her vision a reality in the tech world.

Kapor Klein and her husband, Mitch Kapor, oversee a family of organizations in the philanthropic and socially conscious investment world. Kapor Capital, the Kapor Center for Social Impact and the Level Playing Field Institute all aim to increase diversity in Silicon Valley, whose leading companies are overwhelmingly male and white or Asian.

As increased attention has been called to that disparity, tech companies have made efforts to recruit more women and people of color — witness Airbnb hiring its first head of “diversity and belonging” this month. But Kapor Klein, who regularly speaks to tech companies, has been on the cutting edge of research into the hidden biases that people have in their hiring and promotional practices.

She met Mitch Kapor in the mid-1980s when he was at Lotus, where he was the CEO and founder. They were co-workers, and she was trying to implement his vision of making the company “the most progressive employer in the United States,” as he told her then.

“He cared passionately about these issues because he was bullied as a kid,” Kapor Klein said. “He was a nerd when it wasn’t cool to be a nerd.”

In the couple of years she worked at the company, she was instrumental in making the software company what is believed to be one of the first corporate sponsors of an AIDS event, and to have a diversity council that included out LGBT folks. A decade later they reconnected after his first marriage ended, and they were married in 1999.

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