I have been meaning to write about why I changed the makeup of my twitter feed to make it more diverse, and how that made me happier, smarter and more effective for a while.
“Having people different than your own background in your life is important.” There’s no way you can tell that this small group of homogenous individuals, those who actively engage on SO, are contributing to a knowledge management system that’s healthy for a global community. https://t.co/JyIW30AOyD
— Kim Crayton 🏢 💻🎙 (@KimCrayton1) April 10, 2018
Seems like now is the time. I got a nudge to do so from Kim Crayton, who runs a business coaching consultancy with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, after seeing this tweet and thread by Josh Glover.
One day a couple months back, I looked at who I followed on Twitter. I saw a lot of white male faces staring back at me. That surprised me somehow, as I thought more diversity in tech was one of my core values. But how could that be true if I wasn’t listening to diverse voices?
— Josh Glover (@jmglov) March 16, 2018
I had a very similar experience. I think of myself as reasonably aware when it comes to diversity. A while ago I tried a twitter app that estimated the gender ratio of the people I follow, and I remember being fairly horrified. Today I ran a test with Proportio.nl and as you can see in the chart above the results are still not great. If however you check out the list of folks I follow, which is chronological, the picture is far more encouraging. One problem I had when I made the change to improve the diversity of my feed was that I really didn’t want to follow more people than I already was. I didn’t want to have a cull either, so I just had to give up on self imposed rules about keeping my following count down.
Following more diverse voices has some implications. A lot more discrimination is surfaced. Chances are high the women and people of colour you follow will talk about the barrage of sexism and or racism they face in the workplace, in their personal lives and on social media. The discrimination should, rightly, make you angry.
But asking marginalized people to hold your hand through a mildly uncomfortable moment where you have to consider that you might benefit from a society built for you is putting a burden on people who have a bunch of shit to deal with already 9/?
— Danielle Leong (@tsunamino) April 11, 2018
Please read Danielle’s entire thread.
It’s better that we face it than avoid it. Then we can look to improve things. You will certainly find yourself challenged. If you mute “the politics” you’re not learning. You will have “not all men” reactions. Deal with it. Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.
"what's it like to be a woman in tech?"
> write message to coworker
> stare at it before sending
> remove smiley
> remove exclamation point
> worry that it sounds too direct now
> stare at it more
— rachel binx (@rachelbinx) April 10, 2018
You’ll see wonderful support and love for each other by the folks in your networks. Sisterhood, for example, is a really beautiful, uplifting thing. In tech it’s essential to keeping afloat.
You’ll learn cool stuff like how to compliment people.
I've had male friends before ask me what an appropriate compliment is, so here is an actual not even a joke trick: combine "rad", "cool" or "awesome" with an attribute the woman has control over. I have never been offended by "you have rad hair" or "your boots are cool"
— Kells ♡♡ Game Dev Stuff (@pkkaos) March 27, 2018
Following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events. I know right? Who knew? Opening yourself up to 100% of the population allows you to significantly raise the bar.
What is the future you want? It doesn’t have to be a future.
Now, a few months on, my Twitter feed looks like the tech community as I want it to be. This was incredibly easy, and gave me a way to listen to voices unlike my own.
— Josh Glover (@jmglov) March 16, 2018
So in the spirit of helping you to diversify who you follow, I came across a wonderful idea recently. Step forward Andreas Savvides.
I love that on #InternationalWomensDay we take the time to celebrate women, it's brilliant. What would be even more brilliant is if we did this every day. For the next 365 days, I am going to add a Tweet a day in celebration of women from around the world 🌍 Let's get started 👇
— Andreas Savvides (@andrs) March 8, 2018
Here is @andrs’ twitter list – which bizarrely only has two followers right now. Get on it, people! I decided to follow every woman on the list this year as a hack to further improve the diversity of the folks I follow.
I still have a ton of work do to. For example – gender is of course not a proxy for diversity, it’s only one aspect of it.
Finally I want to talk about what it feels like returning from a trip to a tech conference. After a few days being in an overwhelmingly white, male, environment I get on a plane and fly back to London. The closer I get to Hackney, the happier I am. I am on the train and there are people all around me, going about their business. They’re women, they’re men, they’re black, they’re white, they’re Nigerian, they’re Jamaican, they’re Turkish, they’re Kurdish, they’re Indian, they’re Pakistani, they’re Chinese, they’re Japanese, they’re Irish, they’re French, they’re British. I am no longer the majority. I am home.
Doug K says:
April 12, 2018 at 10:32 pm
thank you James – this is exactly what I found on Twitter, a range of perspectives I would never have encountered otherwise.
I can’t say it made me happier though, as I was living in blissful ignorance as to just how prevalent sexism and racism still were..
Results for @dotkaye
Sampled 182 people you follow
nonbinary men women
People you follow 1% 42% 57%
James Governor says:
April 13, 2018 at 10:30 am
Hey Doug – you raise a really great point.
In an age of outrage, it seems counter intuitive at best that knowing more about how poorly people are treated might make you “happy”. in my case i would say there are 2 aspects to how this works for me.
1. for all the anger, as I said in the piece, seeing how supportive people are of each other is really wonderful. that makes me happy.
2. i try and use the knowledge to inspire me to do better. running my Monki Gras, conference, for example, which does pretty well on inclusion. Or being a founding organiser of Coed Code, a D&I initiative, which is now hitting its stride.
Sehinde Raji says:
April 22, 2018 at 3:10 pm
Hi James, I attended your ThingMonk event back in September. Whilst this was a groundbreaking event in that there were over 20 people from ethnic minorities. However it was reported that the Monki Gras event there were only 4 people from ethnic minorities who were present. There are lots of organisations including the BBC who like to jump on to the bandwagon of “lets be inclusive” usually as a knee jerk reaction to regulation. Meanwhile there are very few organisations or people who genuinely wish to be inclusive and welcoming to people from all walks of life. The basic unit of discrimination is the job interview and there are lots of organisations who do not step up to the plate when it comes to genuine inclusion!
James Governor says:
April 23, 2018 at 10:56 am
Hi Sehinde. Thanks for your kind comments and for coming to ThingMonk.
I think we did OK on inclusion at Monki Gras, though we can always do better, and should strive to do so. Not sure about the reporting you mention, but just for the record there were certainly more than 20 people from under-represented ethnic groups at the event, just as there were at ThingMonk. We take our responsibilities seriously. I hope you’ll join us at Monki Gras next year. It’s a lovely community.
I live in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, and I strongly believe our industries, organisations, workplaces and events should reflect that. Opportunities should be open to everyone.
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