Quietly advocating for Diversity.

Thanks to all who’ve filled out our survey, we’re leaving it open for awhile longer so you can still give us feedback.

We’re back after a brief hiatus! On August 24 at 2pm, we’ll talk about effective communication strategies for helping improve diversity and highlight whether or not visibility campaigns are sufficient to increase diversity or is there more that is required to achieve a robust state of diversity?

A few weeks ago, #ILookLikeAnEngineer became a trending topic on Twitter. It all started with some disparaging remarks made about software engineer Isis Anchalee, who was featured in a recruiting ad for the company she works for in the bay area.

The whole story is here. I quote from it below.

She introduces herself this way:

I doubt that most of you know me. I am a passionate self-taught engineer, extreme introvert, science-nerd, anime-lover, college dropout, hip hop dancer, yoga teacher/hoop-dance teacher, really authentic friend andHUMAN(omg?!). In fact, if you knew me you would probably know that being famous is one of my biggest nightmares; seriously right up there with falling into a porta potty. I keep to myself most of the time and generally prefer when others mind their own business too.

Up to the point where these ads were published, Anchalee was doing her part for diversity in tech just by being an engineer It sounds like she likes her current job well enough and does it well. And though I don’t know her, I imagine she’d have been happy enough to continue working in the tech industry in the Bay Area. Quietly being an engineer.

I didn’t want or ask for any of this attention, but if I can use this to put a spotlight on gender issues in tech I consider that to be at least one win.

After she was inspired to write it due to the reaction to the ad she’s featured in (she’s one of a few of her colleagues photographed, showing off some of the team (I always wondered who people in ads are…and now I know in at least this one case), her challenge to show the diversity present in engineering has really taken off, and underscored the point that scientists and engineers do not look just one way (or even dress one way; the white lab coat is not all that typical in many fields of science, for instance). And just how the current culture fosters unconscious bias:

There is a significant lack of empathy and insight towards recognizing that their “playful/harmless” behavior is responsible for making others inappropriately uncomfortable. This industry’s culture fosters an unconscious lack of sensitivity towards those who do not fit a certain mold.

And what Isis Anchalee is doing with #ILookLikeAnEngineer parallels another story of a quiet person that did a lot to raise awareness of outright bias: Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was an introvert too. A quiet member of her community, serving as a quiet example, and one community members felt deeply connected to (there doesn’t seem to be any other way w/ us introverts). Until she kick-started the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. And suddenly, she was thrust into the spotlight.

Harassment and derogatory remarks/behaviors shouldn’t have to be tolerated by anyone. For whatever reason, Both Parks and Anchalee have stories that resonated beyond their immediate communities. And of course, both had others to help spread and broadcast a similar message, to demonstrate their agreement with them. In some ways, quietly standing in solidarity.

To take one example, women on the traditional academic path are making some progress, though in the upper ranks of academia (Associate & full professor), growth is minimal over the last decade. Visibility campaigns such as Anchalee’s aren’t new, but perhaps they haven’t taken hold or they are not fully sufficient to make real change happen.

A new publication in from the St. Louis Federal Reserve has found that educational attainment and financial stability of traditionally under-represented groups finding that though they can achieve middle class and beyond, it’s a tenuous state and those gains are easily lost, especially during economically challenging times, like recessions, that are hard for them to come back from (NYT story on this report).

And hard funding times may well be at play in the slowness of increasing diversity in STEM fields too. Biases are more entrenched perhaps, and change is slower to come, perhaps due to limited opportunities on the whole. This is one reason increased funding in STEM, if done wisely, could matter a lot.

Which brings us to the discussion questions for this week’s #DiversityJC

  1. Is there such a thing as Quiet advocacy for Diversity? Is just being in the industry and just passively observed, OK?
  2. Does showing STEM workers all look different help improve diversity? Or is it a neutral backdrop to other steps?
  3. What strategies work best for you when talking about diversity? Direct? Quiet?
  4. What situations/scenarios call for quieter activism vs. the louder-speak-up/protest activism?
  5. What are some things that can be done to ensure that education/STEM training lead to resilient & robust careers for underrepresented groups?

Join us this Monday, August 24 at 2pm ET for the discussion!

Ian Street

Emily S. Klein

Doctor_PMS

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3 thoughts on “Quietly advocating for Diversity.

  1. Looking forward to this chat. The mentions of Rosa Parks brings the concept of respectability politics into this mix as well. She wasn’t the first black woman to be arrested for doing what she did, but she was deemed a better symbol for the boycott by civil rights leaders because she was a quiet, unassuming community member.

    http://www.aauw.org/2012/03/21/claudette-colvin-stayed/

    Are you less likely to be heard in the fight for diversity if you don’t have a history of being perceived as quiet and non-threatening?

    Like

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