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.