We’re spending a big part of our week at Open Source Bridge, both taking in wisdom and taking photos! On Day 1, I spent a lot of time wishing that I could be in multiple places at once, but I did make it to a couple of different talks which drove home the message that tech needs to strive to be more inclusive, more socially aware, and more collaborative.
Stepping Towards True Diversity in Tech
Kronda Adair kicked off Open Source Bridge with “Put Up or Shut Up: An Open Letter to Tech Companies Seeking Diverse Teams,” which gave direct talk about the problem of diversity in the tech industry, an industry that continues to be dominated by white males. One startling statistic: “50% of women in tech quit the industry within 10 years.”–not simply their jobs, but the entire industry. Hiring more women and other underrepresented demographics into tech companies does help, but as Adair stated, it is simply not enough.
Adair emphasized the importance of companies throughout tech stepping up and putting real weight behind their stated desires for diversity. Empathy is key to creating an environment that is welcoming to all, and a supportive work environment is key to retaining people from those underrepresented demographics.
In short, it’s important to create a space that’s safe for everyone, and that allows diverse groups to flourish. It means not allowing members of your company or community to act badly without consequences. Value interpersonal skills as well as technical skills. Give access to tools and education, and inclusive healthcare. It can even be as simple as taking the time to learn an unfamiliar name. When you think on diversity, don’t simply wonder, “how do I add diversity?” but ask, “how do I make things better for everyone?”
When Fear Takes Hold, Reach Outward
In an afternoon session, Adam Edgerton looked at what happens when the project management cycle gets scary in “Project Fear.” He touched on the very real issues of burnout in all facets of tech–Edgerton suggested that burnout is one major contributor to why people quit the industry–and the feelings of uncertainty that come with joining a new project or a new company. “Impostor Syndrome is most strongly associated with high achievers,” so even those who are expert and capable, and performing well, may feel the fear that comes with uncertainty
New hires can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to gain the background knowledge about a company that’s needed for them to perform well, so patience is key. Edgerton suggests reaching outward to help combat uncertainty–asking questions and doing research to gain the background you might be missing can help you find the “a-ha” moment of understanding. It’s also important to balance your gut feelings and your logic, much like our friends Kirk and Spock. And, allowing yourself to talk about struggle and share it with others can help relieve the pressure that leads to burnout.
Your Job Impacts Your Community
An afternoon session with Kelsey Gilmore-Innis, “Your Job Is Political,” dove into the long reach of tech dollars in politics. Using her knowledge of tech leaders in the Bay Area, she went into extensive detail about venture capitalists in tech, the surprising number of tech companies they’re tied to and invested in, and most importantly, where their political interests lie–and subsequently, where their millions of dollars are going.
A sad truth of our political system is that money continues to command a great deal of power, and the work you do as an average tech worker contributes to advancing political interests that you may not support. If you don’t take a position, but your bosses invest revenue from your labor in politics, you are not impartial. Be aware of who is at the top levels of your company, and what they are doing (or not doing) to benefit your community.