I recently attended a meetup where the focus of the evening was on the experiences and frustrations of people belonging to groups that are under-represented in the tech world.
The meetup was conducted in a co-working space in Bristol and from the start, the host went above and beyond to ensure everyone was included and felt safe to share whatever experiences they wanted to in any level of detail they felt comfortable. Knowing that it was a safe space really helped when it came to sharing my experiences. I’d just like to share some of the key things I took away.
As you know from previous posts, part of my responsibilities includes hiring developers for our team and one thing I noted immediately was that many people unrepresented in tech don’t feel they are qualified or experienced enough to apply for roles as they undervalue their skill, compared to many in over-represented groups who oversell their abilities.
As well as this being brought up by others at the event, I’ve been in that place myself and put off applying to my current employer for 4 years before going ahead and applying anyway.
The way I’ve been trying to address this so far is to be at events and places which are more open and welcoming to people belonging to these groups and to have conversations about my experience.
Outside of hiring, there were more takeaways and whilst I’m happy to say that my current employer does well in most of those regards, there is always room for improvement. Our distributed culture helps with some of these issues and other times it is a conscious thing we’ve done.
Promote an environment where people are valued for what they contribute regardless of appearance, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin colour or age etc.
Ensure that under-represented groups voices are heard and weighed equally with mainstream groups. A repeated theme was that females and female identifying members of tech teams would often have to co-opt a white CIS male colleague to promote their idea for it to even be considered.
Giving credit where it is due. One person may make a suggestion or statement, only to have to say “That was what I just said” 2 minutes later when someone else, normally a male colleague, said or paraphrased it and was credited with having the idea.
Provide safe spaces for groups of like-minded individuals to talk/vent etc
Assume good intentions whilst being prepared to compassionately correct or be corrected. This one was raised with regard to language choices and discussions where people were explaining things, fully aware that some terminology and labels can be triggers to different groups or individuals. Whilst the majority of people are not trying to offend anyone they may unintentionally use a term that triggers someone and in those situations, they should be prepared to be open to correction or prepared to correct if they are the one being triggered
Being mindful of other groups and how your actions affect them. Often the best results come from people outside of any given group seeing issues and calling them out, being the allies under-represented groups need and doing it from within their own groups. I recently saw a tweet that I regrettably cannot find any more. It went something like this.
We don’t need more women to talk to men.
We don’t need more gay people to talk to straight people.
We don’t need more transfolk to talk to CIS gendered folk.
We don’t need more PoC to talk to white people.
We don’t need more disabled folk to talk with able-bodied people.
What we do need is more straight CIS white and able-bodied people to talk to each other.