Archive for February, 2012

is it me or are we going backward?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like lately diversity is falling out of fashion as a goal in this industry. I made a tweet seeking sponsors for All-Girl Hack Night’s SXSW event earlier and was surprised by some of the responses. It seems like recent conferences have fewer female speakers, or are more defensive about having none at all.

I thought we were getting better? I thought we’d beaten the dead horse of Why It’s Important To Make An Effort To Include Women and were now in the Fixing It stage? I thought we were safe not talking about this anymore? What the actual fuck, you guys.

Setting aside my dismay at the appearance of backsliding, let’s revisit that imperative Why. Yes, we do need to actively seek out women and people of color as employees, contributors, speakers, and other participants in developer communities. We need to do this because:

  • we’re hemorrhaging women and people of color at the earliest levels – if you ignore them, they will probably be gone by the time you’d expect them to be “qualified”
  • speaking of “qualified”, if your meritocracy rewards white guys almost exclusively, your meritocracy is a fucking joke
  • if you truly care about making this industry better, you try to get all the help you can
  • it is – bluntly – wrong that women and people of color were so pointedly excluded for so long, and treating the resulting diversity debt as “the way things are” when it’s a status quo people put effort into creating is utter bullshit

So, yes folks, you need to seek out diverse participants in whatever your endeavor is. The excuse that you’re choosing the best people regardless of gender or race is a fundamentally stupid argument. You’ve already ruled out more than half the population by targeting the population you’re targeting when you target developers. If you want the best developers – not the people who best fit the good ol’ boy developer archetype – you have to work harder, you have to look specifically for the people you know the industry will not automatically support. Women and people of color do not rise to the top level of this industry without someone acknowledging that they aren’t white guys. I know people – women and people of color – who probably hate me for saying that. Sorry. But it does not matter how brilliant you are in this industry if you’re not a white guy until someone in a position of power looks at you and chooses to look beyond your sex or the color of your skin. I want to throw shit when the best women in this industry make claims like, “I did it and if you were as good as me you could do it too” because it’s not just about being good (nevermind that you shouldn’t have to be literally the best of the best to get a seat at the table if you’re not white and male). It sounds like people who inherited money telling poor people to work harder to change their circumstances. There’s luck involved. At some point you had to be lucky enough to be noticed by an insider who took the time to realize you were brilliant. We’re defending a system where achievement and recognition comes not from hard work and genius – merit – but from circumstance.

And before anybody says it, I want to address what I know is coming: “But women get more opportunities! They get considered before equally qualified men!”

1. You’re whining about what’s fair to a group of people who dominate this industry to the exclusion of anyone else? Really?

2. Women do get pushed to the front of the line. That’s affirmative action, and affirmative action is the worst way of achieving balance, except for every other way that’s been tried. Doing nothing has a 100% failure rate. Affirmative action is frequently the only way we see anyone who’s not a white male in the next cubicle or on a stage or a list of core committers. Fucking sucks that we need it, but we are nowhere near the point where we can stop using it.

3. The assumption that if you have an equally qualified man and woman it’s unfair for the woman to get preferential treatment is lulz. What entitles the man to be the default?

I’m sorry I’m being mean, but goddamn it, you guys. I’m sick of hearing this same tired bullshit, as though it occurred to no one to actually look the fuck around and see that this defensive attitude toward ignoring the fucking problem and hoping it goes away is making shit worse.