Diversity is not just gender

#1

This is a very difficult read because of the anger* in it, but a very good one:


https://medium.com/@nmsanchez/which-women-in-tech-371e721e71c4

Nicole Sanchez argues that ‘diversity’ is not just about getting more white women on board, and that diversity efforts that privilege white women are failing non-white women. She’s right, but not just with regard to white vs non-white women. The call to ‘lean in’, for example, privileges not white women, but a very specific sort of white woman: middle class, educated at the right university (and in the US, the class system is just embedded in education as Oxbridge is in the UK), confident, outgoing, with the ‘right sort’ of CV, with the right sort of mentor and bosses, and in the right sort of company. If you fail on any of those, and other, criteria, you can lean in as much as you like and you’re not going anywhere. 

This article by Lisa Grimm shows another side to the problem of diversity: There is a specific narrative about women in tech and if you don’t fall into the right categories, you might as well not exist. And those categories are so narrow as to exclude a vast swathe of women who are being ignored not just by the media, but by their bosses, headhunters and even activists. 

https://medium.com/@lisagrimm/stuck-in-the-middle-on-being-neither-an-abused-nor-ultra-elite-woman-in-tech-73cf6b255b48 

Diversity isn’t just gender, and it’s not just race. It’s just sexuality, religion, age, class, personality, visibility, career history… the list could go on. With regard to ageism, this is a really excellent read about the challenges older women face in Silicon Valley: 

http://www.inc.com/kimberly-weisul/why-the-next-mark-zuckerberg-is-female.html

I remember going to the Google campus in, oh, must have been 2006 I suppose, to give a talk. As I walked through the Google canteen, I noticed people of all sorts of ethnicities, and heard all sorts of languages, many of which I didn’t recognise. And yet, going beyond the fact that these were mostly men, they had a similarity that was distinctly Stepfordian: same age, same kinds of clothes, same way of walking, same attitude. Even the women that were there fit in to that homogeneity. Adding more women would not have and will not fixe the problem, because diversity is not just about gender. 

* There’s a whole essay I could write about the use of anger as a device to draw a bright line around your in-group whilst chastising an out-group and silencing criticism of your position by using the accusation of ‘tone policing’ to tone police. But that’s a whole other discussion.


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#2

I haven’t read the article yet but I agree that there’s much more to diversity and it’s a problem I feel in that despite implying that I’m ‘oppressed’ or something because I’m a woman in actual fact I know I’m incredibly privileged. I went to a private (well, Independent to get all technical) girls school from the age of 10 where I was taught that I could do whatever I wanted. I got an excellent education, had parents who cared and took me (and my sister) to museums, zoos, the theatre (not often but a few times and always to the panto), foreign countries and so on. I’ve got a university education, paid for largely by my mum and I’ve always known I’ve got a home to come back to should things go badly for me with a mother who loves me. And yet things have still felt like a struggle. How it would be to have to try and do that with parents who don’t give a shit and kick you out at 18 I really don’t know. In the western world I’d almost go so far as to say that poverty (and by extension social class) is a bigger barrier than sex. I know that women are still disadvantaged in relation to men of the same class but I honestly don’t know how my life could have been ‘improved’ by having been born male yet I can clearly see how it could have been much harder if I’d been born to poorer or less interested parents.

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#3

Just to add to Fishnut’s post… I feel privileged compared to the people I grew up around, because I went to university. My family were very poor though. I was terrified of going because I didn’t know how I would manage to afford it all.


I think what was hardest was knowing I had no safety net. If I hadn’t worked, then I would never have been able to go. Most of the people I was around had their rent and bills paid by their parents - I remember being amazed by that, I had no idea people had that kind of money.
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#4

I was lucky that I didn’t have to work whilst at university, my student loan covered everything I needed.


I felt very far removed from the people whose parents paid their fees, whose parents bought them a house, who took out the loan, put it in a high interest account as their parents paid for everything, then paid it back when they graduated, pocketing the interest. I am still paying off my student loan 12 years later - and I have no idea what it will feel like to be one of the people who will now have a debt on graduating two or three times the size of mine. 
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#5

I actually didn’t find the article that angry, if I am honest. It’s a statement of fact really. David Willetts, scourge of HE in the UK, made the point that the greatest beneficiaries of the university expansion in 1980s UK were middle class women - and that’s the only thing he’s ever said that I agree with, to my knowledge.

It’s a conflict within the AthenaSWAN movement too - should you add race equality the Athena agenda or not? I bit of surfing has revealed that the Equality Challenge Unit is starting a racial equality charter mark too http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/facing-the-taboo-of-race-discr/4586702221

it may work better if it is separate from Athena? I don’t know - it is a difficult issue. Academic friends who identify as LGBT have similar issues with marginalisation.

yeah. complicated. But personally, I think class and power transcend the label. if gender was not an issue, then something else would be. It’s about power.

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#6

I think there is something to be said for focus: Do one thing and do it well. But there’s also the fact that there are some things that can be done to take other -isms into account that aren’t all that difficult and so shouldn’t be ignored. 


For example, we have a pretty good record of including women with ethnic backgrounds in Ada Lovelace Day, with only one year (2012) where we had an all-white line up (although technically Gia Milinovich has a Native American, iirc, heritage, but you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t know her). We make a point of looking for speakers from outside of our immediate circles, and usually end up with a long list of possibilities. We try to balance for age too, although LBT is a bit harder because not everyone is open about their sexuality and although some people are open I’m not about to start asking! (Oddly, if this was a tech-only thing, it’d be a lot easier to find LBT women, but it’s a bit harder in STEM and with the specific kind of talks that we want.) That doesn’t mean I don’t try to be aware though. 

However, the mission of ALD has to remain the same, so it’s about helping women and girls, however they self-identify, and I don’t want to get distracted from that. 
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#7

Well Said. Too many take for granted these days

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#8

This is an interesting piece on being LGBTQi in science. Some of the experiences show that an awful lot of people are really quite tone-deaf about, well, being polite to those who may be different from themselves.

Openly out in science: To be or not to be?

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#9

GCHQ apologised for their ban on gay people. What I think is so noteworthy about this apology is that it is completely unequivocal and also notes that the ban hurt GCHQ (and by extension the whole country), thus recognising that increasing diversity is not just about being ‘politically correct’ but about getting the very best people you can get.

“Their suffering was our loss and it was the nation’s loss too because we cannot know what [those] who were dismissed would have gone on to do and achieve. We did not learn our lesson from Turing.”

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#10

How Queer Scientists Are Shaping Their Future With a Survey

A good piece highlighting a website, http://www.queerstem.org/, doing good work for LGBTQ people working in STEM.

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#11

Very interesting. Just posted to FB. :smiley:

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#12

There’s been a couple of stories recently that highlight how getting an education is necessary but not always sufficient to break glass ceilings and how those who do not attend elite schools and universities are excluded from opportunities because they ‘don’t fit in’ to the culture of an organisation.

What the Privileged Poor Can Teach Us

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37244180

The first shows how getting scholarships to elite schools not only give kids the education to get into good universities but gives them the confidence to go to them because the culture is one they understand.

The second article explains how ‘subtle signs’ such as clothing choices can mean that candidates are rejected for jobs because they are used as cues that the person ‘won’t fit in’ to the culture of the organisation.

I think the articles are a really interesting pair because they show how ‘fitting in’ is really important, both to the person and to the organisation, and how the fear of not fitting in can both prevent a person from exploring an opportunity that they might otherwise benefit from and can prevent an organisation from taking a good candidate.

The personal fear is hard to counter but outreach and making an effort to increase the diversity of staff can help organisations seem more appealing to those who are afraid. For organisations who hold their culture about the quality of their employees, well, they just need to get their head out of their arses. Yes, ensuring that your employees work well together and represent your company to clients is important but that doesn’t mean everyone has to have the same background and by restricting your pool of employees to that background is preventing you from accessing a great deal of talent. I’m sure clients would prefer the best people to be working for them, rather than the guy who knew which shoes to wear with what suit.

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#13

Why do so many Muslim women find it hard to integrate in Britain?
This is a fascinating and rather sad piece looking at how Muslim women face discrimination in the UK.

The children living with facial disfigurements
Another sad piece but with some hope, describing the stigma that children with facial disfigurement face. The hope is that it seems pretty easy to change the views of ‘normal’ kids just by getting to know those with facial disfigurements.

Intersectionality is hot topic these days, but saying you’re all about intersectionality and actually living it are two very different things. These articles highlight how people screw it up,

How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and ‘Ally Theater’

The fact that they can’t say “not me!” doesn’t make the need to express “not me!” go away. The need is there, tugging at their ego like a high school handjob. Afterall, how will people know that they are an Ally with a capital A and a gift certificate to Famous Amos Cookies if they don’t make it clear they are NOT LIKE OTHER WHITE/STRAIGHT/CIS/ETC. PEOPLE???l”.
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9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible
I’ve noticed what the author has noticed, social justice groups have a tendency to turn into cliques reminiscent of the very worst excesses of school cliques. This piece gives some good guidance on how to prevent this from happening.

6 Signs Your Call-Out Isn’t Actually About Accountability
One of the signs of a group being a clique is the way they deal with calling people out. If it’s more about showing the moral superiority of the person doing the calling out then chances are it’s not about accountability.

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#14

It’s time to take the ‘great’ white men of science off their pedestals
How do we look objectively at the history of science? This is in response to an incredibly tone-deaf and irresponsible Nature editorial that claimed that getting rid of statues of controversial historical figures was ‘whitewashing’ history.

What Ole Miss Can Teach Universities About Grappling With Their Pasts
This is a great piece that tries to address the question above. The University of Mississippi has a chequered past but has taken to confronting it head-on rather than pretending that everything needs to be preserved in aspic.

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#15

Who are the 36 BAME people among the UK’s 1,000 most powerful?
Only a tiny handful of top UK leaders from the worlds of politics, media, finance and more are minority ethnic. This is who they are.

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