You’re ignoring the issue – Diversity in Tech

Don’t read the comments. Sometimes, when I post a link to an article on my Facebook wall, I feel compelled to add the warning, “don’t read the comments” along with the article.

This morning I posted a link to NPR’s Why Some Diversity Thinkers Aren’t Buying The Tech Industry’s Excuses article, and the comment responses are pretty much exactly the kind of responses that I still get sporadically for having the audacity to suggest that my YouTube channel needs more women viewers on someone else’s video that highlights the same problem on their channel.

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Scroll through the comments in the Diversity in Tech article, and you see the same mentality…

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As sick as I am of hearing the same, “They’re just not interested. Stop trying to force women and people of color into tech!!!“, this isn’t what I want to post about right now. That’s a whole other long-ass topic that needs to be researched… Which I have done some research for that re: women in CS already so you can read this if you really want to.


No, what I really want to talk about is that, by making statements like “they’re just not into it”, ignoring whether or not we’re going to argue that entire demographics of people simply aren’t interested, I cannot imagine that anybody would state that absolutely, 0% of [demographic] are not interested in computer science. I think that we can all agree that at least some of these people exist, whatever people these might be. Right? There can’t be a net total 0 women, or African American people, or Latinx people, or Native American people, or gay people, trans people, intersex people, etc. etc. etc. You would have to be pretty damn specific if you wanted to come up with a demographic of people that might not exist as a person-who-is-interested-in-tech. And heck, even I fit the demographic of a “woman-or-maybe-genderfluid/queer/indifferent, asexual, panromantic, Esperanto-speaker, dandruff-haver, piano-player” programmer – I don’t mean to be facetious, I’m just trying to highlight that a person can be many things, and still interested in tech.

OK, so my first point is, there cannot be a people of any given demographic who have zero software developers among them.

Let’s look at these handy graphs I found on this article Race and Gender Among Computer Science Majors at Stanford:

Male & Female Computer Science majors at Stanford (from Medium.com)

Male & Female Computer Science majors at Stanford (from Medium.com)

So, there exist some women. It isn’t zero women. And then we have…:

Computer Science majors by race at Stanford (from Medium.com)

Computer Science majors by race at Stanford (from Medium.com)

and the Medium article even breaks down even further with more statistics.

But my point is, it isn’t zero. So let’s stop acting like all women/PoC are simply not interested in computer science.


 

So, secondly, the idea is that these people exist, but major tech companies still cannot at least build a ratio of tech employees that mirrors what’s coming out of colleges.

But they totally could – if they really wanted to.

As Martin Fowler points out in his DiversityMediocrityIllusion post,

To understand why this is an illusionary concern, I like to consider a little thought experiment. Imagine a giant bucket that contains a hundred thousand marbles. You know that 10% of these marbles have a special sparkle that you can see when you carefully examine them. You also know that 80% of these marbles are blue and 20% pink, and that sparkles exist evenly across both colors [1]. If you were asked to pick out ten sparkly marbles, you know you could confidently go through some and pick them out. So now imagine you’re told to pick out ten marbles such that five were blue and five were pink.

I don’t think you would react by saying “that’s impossible”. After all there are two thousand pink sparkly marbles in there, getting five of them is not beyond the wit of even a man. Similarly in software, there may be less women in the software business, but there are still enough good women to fit the roles a company or a conference needs.

(By the way I love Martin Fowler)


 

The people are out there, they just take more effort to find. Part of it might include how a company finds their candidates – if they weigh references heavily, then that might only support the demographic that is most heavily represented.

If they advertise that they’re the “standard nerds” who love beer and bacon, that’s going to be a turn off to certain religions, as well as people who simply don’t enjoy alcohol (*raises hand*), and the idea of having social events at work centered around alcohol simply just doesn’t sound like much fun.

It could be where they’re posting their job ads. It could be the values that they present. It could be any number of things. But to build more diversity, some effort has to be put into it, rather than just maintaining the status quo and acting like, “well gee, why can’t these women and/or PoC just fit in with our status quo? Why do we have to change?!”

 

When I interview for a software job, I usually ask the people conducting the interview about diversity. How many women work there? What about other ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds? A majority of the time, I get a response akin to “We hire for talent, not diversity”.

That isn’t what I asked about.

During the interviews and walk-throughs, how many people are present who aren’t white men? Only one time have I been interviewed by a woman – and it was because the entire team interviewed me, not because she was the boss. At my last job, I think that there were maybe two software engineers who were women (including myself) in the group of maybe 10+ teams. There were women present as BAs and QAs, but so few as the developers.

What, are women just naturally more interested in quality assurance than software development? Back in the caves up through the agricultural revolution, women biologically evolved to QA the hunts and the crops and all of that, while men evolved the ability to program those… hunts and crops? (Seriously I’m sick of the “biological” argument in a multitude of ways, especially if we consider nonbinary genders and trans people.)


 

Ugh, ok. I’m hungry now, and I have to prep for my Java class on Thursday. I need to come up with more examples of using arrays in simple programs. Ĝis la.

Offices

Have you ever had a college instructor who didn’t have an office?

Most college instructors have office hours to help students outside of class. It’s required in most cases. So, therefore, instructors need offices. Sometimes it might be a room with several cubicles, or it could be their own room with lovely lovely sheetrock on all sides and a door.

The office also provides a nice, quiet space for the instructor to get their planning, grading, etc. done.

Is being a teacher an antisocial job? No, who would say that? You have to interact with people a lot, from your students to the other teachers and faculty of the school.

Being a teacher requires a lot of people interaction, and yet, having an office isn’t seen as somehow making a teacher less able to do their job. The office is a required part of the job.

So how come software developers are thrown in open floor-plan large rooms? The justification is usually in favor of collaboration between the developers, but if teachers get offices and can still talk to people, why can’t developers?

If it helps to have quiet while an instructor is planning, grading, or otherwise doing their non-people work, why do we not treat developers the same way, giving them a nice quiet area to get their non-people work done?

And that’s not even getting into how I can choose the hours I’m in my office, and I can choose when and where I get my non-people work done as an instructor. I do most of my class preparation at home, on my laptop that runs Linux, with my kitty cat and tea and food that I can prepare in my own kitchen.

If teachers can have this freedom and get their work done, why can’t software developers?