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How to create a welcoming environment in your tech space


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How to create a welcoming environment in your tech space

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Slides from WordCamp Cape Town 2018. Covers diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, marginalization, privilege, structural barriers, visions & values for an inclusive environment, how to deal with boundary violations.

Slides from WordCamp Cape Town 2018. Covers diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, marginalization, privilege, structural barriers, visions & values for an inclusive environment, how to deal with boundary violations.


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How to create a welcoming environment in your tech space

  1. 1. How to create a welcoming environment in your tech space WordCamp Cape Town 2018
  2. 2. Trisha Cornelius @trishawebs
  3. 3. Speaking the same language Defining the terms used to create a welcoming environment
  4. 4. Diversity Refers to having a variety of people in your group with different characteristics.
  5. 5. Inclusion Refers to how people feel in a space. “Inclusion is not about a person changing to fit in, but rather about the environment shifting to accommodate those things that make each person unique.”
  6. 6. Intersectionality Refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent of systems of discrimination or disadvantage
  7. 7. Marginalization The treatment of a person, group, or concept as insignificant or peripheral.
  8. 8. Micro-aggressions A subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a minority or other nondominant group that is often unintentional or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype
  9. 9. Privilege Refers to access. It is situational.
  10. 10. Privilege is not: ● That you haven’t had a hard life, but that the area in which you are privileged is not one of the things making it harder. ● An indictment on you or your character
  11. 11. Structural barrier An issue that is beyond one’s personal control that is part of the context or environment that is related to belonging to a particular group. For example being in a rural area or in a situation of poverty
  12. 12. What’s the point? Reasons to talk and care about diversity and inclusion
  13. 13. Global problem, local context ● These problems don’t just occur in South Africa. ● People are not good at seeing what is on the periphery. (Invisible Gorilla) ● South Africa has the advantage of a acknowledging the structures and talking about them. Our challenge is action. ● These topics are uncomfortable, and force us to look at our baggage. We need to lean into the discomfort.
  14. 14. It’s a big world, there is room for everyone.
  15. 15. Increases skills pool Numbers not reported in South Africa. 2017 estimate in the United States that by 2020 there will be 1 million unfilled coding positions due to a lack of education.
  16. 16. Innovation “This was demonstrated in the case of Vodacom employee Nkosana Makate’s multi-billion rand ‘Please Call Me’ concept. Makate said the idea came to him after yet another fight with his girlfriend, who claimed he wasn’t calling her due to a lack of airtime.” - A Journey of Diversity and Inclusion in South Africa by Nene Molefi
  17. 17. BTW, It’s the law in South Africa The South African Constitution binds both the government and private entities to the rights in the Bill of Rights and requires that private entities and people give effect to the rights enshrined within it. Section 9 of the Bill of Rights: “3. The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. 4. No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.”
  18. 18. This stuff shouldn't matter Looking at the world the way that it really is
  19. 19. “You like diversity when it’s about stuff that shouldn’t matter (gender, skin colour, sexual preferences) but less so when it affects something that should”
  20. 20. Oh come on it’s not that bad Some examples of people getting it wrong
  21. 21. An extra definition: Gaslighting Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's belief.
  22. 22. Being called a “c***” was far less damaging than everything else. Because I knew that was inappropriate. Everything else was was much easier to internalise. “I thought a lot about leaving, because how do you not think about leaving when some dude bullies you for a year and then calls you a “c***” and nothing happens and oh yeah he still works there even now, and when HR use the fact that you were sexually assaulted to gaslight you.” - Cate
  23. 23. Netflix and a word beginning with “N” ● Netflix has a reputation for firing swiftly and brutally. ● Jonathan Friedland, whose use of the N-word in a staff meeting this February 2018 resulted in his termination four months later
  24. 24. "Hey, honey, could you get us some coffee? Thanks." Karen Walrond - Lead Counsel for a multi-million dollar software company. Was asked to be in a meeting because of her expertise with software and other technology. Walks into the meeting room and two men are already there and having a conversation. ‘One of them saw me enter, and smiled. "Hey, honey, could you get us some coffee? Thanks.”
  25. 25. Visions & Values for an inclusive environment If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there
  26. 26. Transformation Vision A statement of what the ideal environment in a space will look like
  27. 27. Values These are the things that you actually do. How do you behave towards people who are different? (Including on skills)
  28. 28. We don’t need more spaces, we need to make our existing spaces more inclusive
  29. 29. Safe spaces These should exist alongside but not as a replacement for inclusive spaces. There purpose is to provide a safe space for a group of people with similar backgrounds to discuss their experiences.
  30. 30. The importance of leadership
  31. 31. Group Identity & Self Policing ● A group’s identity is built by its actions. As such, harmful behaviour from one of the members of the group hurts the entire group. And conversely, positive behaviour from of the members of the group benefits the entire group. ● Self policing refers to an organization that is responsible for its own compliance to legal, safety and ethical standards.
  32. 32. This is difficult Breaking down years of systematic barriers takes work. We are in uncharted territory. We need people to help us feel safe, and model behaviour.
  33. 33. People are watching ● How you interact with newcomers ● How you interact with people when you disagree ● How you interact with people when they are less powerful than you ● How you handle violations of boundaries ● Your language
  34. 34. The Paradox of Tolerance Identified by Karl Popper: A tolerant society must not tolerate intolerance because if it does only the intolerant will remain in the group and the group will have become intolerant
  35. 35. Things that you can do to make people feel welcome Tips, techniques and action points
  36. 36. People want to feel safe and included.
  37. 37. Have rules & enforce them ● Have an explicit code of conduct and enforce them for everyone. ● Leaders and people in a position of power should be held accountable.
  38. 38. Assume reports are true False reports happen but are rare. Investigate claims thoroughly.
  39. 39. Watch for boundary pushing Generally, either harmless and the behaviour will be changed when brought to the person’s attention OR A person who enjoys pushing the boundaries of others.
  40. 40. Have a deep bench No person in an organization should be irreplaceable.
  41. 41. Flatten the hierarchy An explicit flat hierarchy is better than an underground hierarchy. Make sure that there is a clear process for people to complain about others who are in a position of power.
  42. 42. Have policies & procedures This allows you to figure out how you want to respond to a situation before it arises. Be flexible with reporting procedures - often people will report to a person they feel safe with rather than on an organogram.
  43. 43. How to be an ally It’s easier for an ally to act because they don’t face the same repercussions as a marginalized person for speaking up
  44. 44. Privilege can be used for good ● Position to amplify other voices ● Be open to sharing your skills and networks with those who are not in the same group
  45. 45. Be a witness not a bystander Acknowledge and validate the other person’s experience. “Yes, thing happened. It was inappropriate and you are not imagining it or over-reacting”
  46. 46. Calling out bad behaviour This is about what a person did, not about who they are. “You said a bad word. That is not acceptable. Don’t do it again.”
  47. 47. How to respond to casual ~ism ● Practice simple responses (Awkward, Not cool) ● Be short, simple and firm ● Don’t try to be funny ● Play to the audience ● Amplify voices of marginalized people when it is positive for them
  48. 48. How to respond to casual ~ism ● Speak up when it is a negative for marginalized people to be the centre of attention ● Speak for yourself; state your values ● Pick your battles ● Don’t expect praise and credit for fighting inequality ● When you make a mistake, apologize, correct yourself, and move on
  49. 49. Be a person that makes others feel safe & welcome in your space
  50. 50. When you get it wrong Intentions, impact & apologies
  51. 51. Impact > intent ● “But you must understand, it wasn’t meant like that.” ● “You are taking this to seriously.” ● “You are blowing this out of proportion” ● The person injured is the person who gets to decide what the impact was. Intentions are irrelevant when it comes to impact but intentions do matter.
  52. 52. It doesn’t matter how you mess up, it matters how you fix it. Apologize Learn from it Do better next time
  53. 53. How to apologize ● Take responsibility. Express regret and show remorse, be brief and to the point. (I’m sorry that …) ● Avoid conditional language (No if’s or but’s) ● Make amends. If there is anything that you can do to mend the situation do it. ● The best apology is a change in behaviour.
  54. 54. Resources Starting points on learning more
  55. 55. Where to learn more A journey of diversity & Inclusion in South Africa - Nene Molefi Anti Oppression 101: A video explaining some basic concepts No More Rock Stars: Blog post
  56. 56. Where to learn more The Ada Initiative: Conference Policies I will post further sources and articles on