USAToday has an opinion piece up written by a woman who is tired of white women being the face of diversity when it comes to representation in technology companies. I have in the past sympathized with under representation, but my views have evolved and continue to do so. I currently have a lack of sympathy for those who claim there’s a great injustice being perpetrated on minorities because of their perceived low population in tech companies. ORLY? I took an admittedly cursory look at the numbers and they don’t point to a vast conspiracy by men to keep women out of tech jobs. In 2011, the number of engineering degrees awarded to women was 18.4%. This encompasses biomedical and environmental which both have around 40% of degrees awarded to women and also mechanical, electrical and computer engineering which have around 10% each. CNN’s look at 5 tech companies’ demographics show women comprise 27% of the professionals. Not the accountants, admins, clerks, etc… the professionals. There doesn’t appear to be much damning evidence there. Well, how about race? Here the data gets more interesting but only very slightly. Engineering degrees awarded to blacks and Hispanics were 12.7% of the total in 2011. The number of black or Hispanic workers at the 5 tech companies was 8.9%. Look at that giant ~3% of unfairness! Anyways, apparently white women aren’t minority enough to count as an under represented minority (URM is apparently the proper terminology), so Nicole Sanchez decides its her mission to correct that view.
From the article:
White men “let” white women into the halls of power they created, and little changes for the rest of us.
“The rest of us” here means … people that look like her?
But something that everyone paying attention to diversity in tech needs to understand is this: White women speaking for us as representatives of the “diversity in tech” movement must stop. White women are a small sliver of the available talent, but are currently used as the proxy for all diversity. What works for them is not what works for us.
Okay, I can see a coherent argument being made here. Prove it.
With the announcement of the Lean In Mentorship Network, solutions that work for a scant few women in tech will be the new expected norm for all women. Because this model is primarily about conforming to prevailing systems and fails to take into account institutional biases specific to women of color, there is no critical analysis of the structures that need to be dismantled for women to thrive. And because the prevailing systems are mostly controlled by a narrow slice of white men, which women will be most successful in this model?
You’re losing me.
Women of color already know that trying to conform to the mainstream is damn near impossible. And even if there are times that we can fake it (note: we shouldn’t have to), the emotional toll is enormous.
Living in a warzone can take an enormous emotional toll. You’re complaining about … what? Acting professionally in a professional setting? Cry me a river.
If assimilation is the expectation, those of us who are non-white, older than 40, disabled, trans, not neurotypical, queer, from low-income backgrounds, and/or a host of other identities will continue to be locked out of tech. This is not to discount the fact that cis (people who identify with their gender assigned at birth) straight white women face bias and discrimination in tech. But they are also the most palatable and least threatening to the mainstream as the face of tech diversity.
It’s scary when I read serious liberal thought and end up needing to check the web address to make sure I’m not reading the Onion. I had to look “cis” up and it’s a real thing. How about not inventing a term for “not trans.” Who thought this was such a burning issue that it needed its own word? Or how about this word – “normal.” Normal people identify with the gender assigned at birth. This is not a judgment. It’s using words as they are defined. How much should the vast majority of humanity go out of its way to cater to the perceived slights of the transgender community? Answers.com puts the number of transsexuals per capita at 1/30000 men and 1/100000 women for the entire planet. It’s enough to not be invisible, but I argue it’s not enough that we need the word cisgender to be used in everyday conversation.
If you believe diversity to be a luxury, or something ancillary to your company/ organization’s mission, you will miss the larger point. Diversity is critical to ensure technological innovations that solve real problems. The sector has already lost enormous amounts of talent by ignoring entire sectors of the population as potential innovators. The demographic shift in this country will render many tech companies irrelevant as they are unable to meet the needs of users.
Why is diversity “critical” to solving tech problems? Prove it. I know there are studies where creativity of a group is positively correlated to how diverse it is. That’s great, but there’s a step missing. You still have to prove technical problems are better solved with a diverse group. For a technical problem at certain level of difficulty, I contend that the group IQ is more important than the group diversity. I have no proof, but the author hasn’t provided any proof of her theory either.
Until we are honest about who we are serving in the tech diversity movement and why, we will not have the impact necessary to achieve change on a large scale.
This means having uncomfortable conversations that can be difficult for some people. But if we want these efforts to succeed and sustain for generations to come, we must do this work. We refuse to accept the current paradigms that reflect rather than challenge the status quo and as women of color, we will no longer accept being spoken for.
Exactly why is large scale change necessary in the tech community? What giant flaw has been discovered in laptops or smartphones that’s attributable to a lack of the right kind of diversity? I’ll go further – In all of human history, what technological innovation can be attributed to these aggrieved communities that makes their inclusion so necessary? Having said all this, I’m all for diversity in tech (or any walk of life) if the group that wants to get into it has the interest and ability. I just don’t think having diversity is critical to tech (or any walk of life [except maybe identity politics, I’ll admit it’s easier to be a race baiter if you aren’t white]). Tech will get along just fine with or without you. You are not a special snowflake. What’s funny about all this is that this liberal minority woman is so fed up with other liberal women that she’s written a piece in the USAToday to vent her frustration. When you get to the extremes of identity politics, there are no amount of hyphens or add-ons you can append to your title to make you safe from criticism. You’ve got plus-size Hispanic woman, but that person over there has plus-size transgender African American deaf little person. You don’t represent me! How dare you speak on my behalf. You haven’t lived in my shoes or know the pain I go through every day I don’t see tech companies representing my diversity. Who’s the oppressor now?