What I learned from writing my last post is that I don’t know all of the right answers. That’s a tough place to be for a human. We like having all the right answers and simple scapegoats to point to when things aren’t the way they should be.
That being said, I do know a few things that might help. I’m not breaking any new ground here, but if I can be a megaphone for a few new ears then perhaps this will have been an effective exercise.
So what can we as mere humans do to advance the cause of more diversity and equity in the tech space — especially those of us who aren’t members of underrepresented groups?
I believe that listening is actually the secret solution to most of life’s problems. One of the biggest recurring themes you may notice from women with gripes about their experiences in tech is that they are often overlooked, interrupted or ignored. Perhaps less nefarious but equally pernicious, men in positions of power may not consult the women on their team before making decisions (big or small) that could have unintended negative consequences for them. Purposely listening and making sure others are able to voice their full opinion before interjecting or dismissing can go a long way.
Also consider: unless you are running the team yourself, you can’t control how others in a group setting may react to a given situation. Pay attention to the people who can’t seem to get a word in during meetings, and try to use your position to boost them if at all possible. Women in the Obama White House adopted this method of “amplification” to boost their voices when they felt ignored or overlooked by men in the room.
Talk about it.
If you want to work in a more diverse workplace (you should), make sure people know where you stand. I’m not saying that you have to rant at your bosses or team members about the issue at every company meeting (you probably shouldn’t), but when you are given the opportunity to speak up about company issues, it is certainly ok to talk about the ways in which you might do better. That being said, it might also be helpful to…
No one is asking you to change your company alone — especially if you don’t personally exert the influence to make all the change that’s needed. Talk to other people on your team and see if you can’t find allies who can agree to push for more equity where at all possible. If you notice others who are already advocating for greater diversity, make sure they know that you are behind them and want to support their efforts.
See the dead-end before you hit it.
If this were an easy problem to solve we wouldn’t need this conversation. And not every employer or every organization is going to be as open to your push as you might like. Are you willing to, proverbially speaking, die on this hill? Would you walk away from what you think is an otherwise good job because you feel like it’s not a welcoming place for others?
I can’t answer that question for you, but I would urge you to push your comfort limits here and, at the very least, be willing to back up your colleagues if you see them treated unfairly. You never know when you may need that kind of support yourself.