Over the last year and a half I’ve had the opportunity to meet tons of amazing non-white male individuals in the tech industry. It’s been an extraordinary experience to feel, sometimes, that I am not the only one of my kind in the industry, despite having been the only woman in the room for many years in many offices, meetings and other events.
I’ve learnt from their code and their approaches, laughed with their satire, empathised with their personal issues, shared experiences over local food, listened to their local customs, compared them to mine, felt uncomfortable, learnt from this discomfort and understood that not everything is as simple as we think or tacitly accept it is. They are strong, and fragile, and stout, and delicate, and complex, and different, just as I am different from them. This diversity not only has shocked me and my stupid preconceptions and biases, it has also made me grow, and I cannot stress this enough–they’ve made me a better person than I was.
I hardly see most of them in person because we live so far apart, but we still connect online, here and there. Social networks, blogs, meatspaces. I like knowing they are there, sharing the little joys that make them smile, supporting them wherever I can, them supporting me when I feel down, being part of this spontaneous network.
Thank you for being there. I heart you all.
Being a minority in tech is exhausting, consuming, destroying. Unless you’re in one of these minorities, you have no idea of the immense pressure that is applied over you, from every direction, every day. Microcuts, microaggressions, “innocent” comments loaded with double meanings which end up engendering feelings of self doubt and inadequacy. Gross comments. The trolling. I have seen the breakdowns, and they are not pretty. There’s only so much one can handle. Despite all the pressure and impossible requirements we’re supposed to fulfill, we’re just humans, after all.
There’s no week in which I don’t heard of “some episode” from my close circle of IT friends. Most of them never go public. But they are there. They happen.
I want to keep learning from all these new found friends in the future. I want you to learn from them too. I want them to keep being who they are, and not retreat into a shadow of themselves because they are scared. I want to see this minority grow until it’s just not a minority anymore, and just plain boring normality. Help us make this possible. Watch this:
And watch it a second, and a third time. Internalise the message.
And do something about it.
Short on time? Here’s some CJ quotes:
- “All change starts with yourself”.
- “How you act is what your values are”.
- “Hire someone who doesn’t look like everybody else in your team”
- “I need you to do something that I can’t do. Stop bad behaviour when you see it.”
And my personal tip: it starts with shutting up, and listening. Really listening.
PS title taken from jen‘s tweet:
— piranha edna (@ednapiranha) October 10, 2014