So it comes to no surprise that men, specifically White men, dominate the tech industry in North America. These days there is a heavy interest to recruit programmers, designers, and what not from minority groups. Women, LGBT, Black, Hispanic… the list goes on.
In fact, the one of the biggest reasons why I got involved in development at a young age was because I went to a handful of these niche events. One event was called Gr8 Designs for Gr8 Girls. I fondly remember playing around with Alice and fangirling over PHP.
Thinking back to all those events, I wonder how many of those girls actually pursued a career in Computer Science and related fields. Wouldn’t it be awesome to somehow hold a reunion for these types of events?
These niche communities are welcoming and they definitely empower those who get involved. But at the same time, it can seem overwhelming to see communities for almost every conceivable minority group. To take a cynical approach, are we really helping minorities by creating groups like “female programmers who are Asian and hate red onions”?
Are we being too politically correct? Being a solid programmer, for instance, requires logical reasoning and abstract thinking. In a perfect world, factors such as cultural background or gender would not matter. Of course, it matters profoundly! How people handle diversity at work reflects how they handle it at home. We’re social beings.
Countless companies explicitly state their preference for people who fit the minority criteria. As someone who counts as one, I sometimes worry that is the major reason why I am being considered for a position. I have heard many of my male friends complain how much easier it is to be a female in the tech industry. To them I say, “honestly, grow some balls and find a better excuse”. Do you think female developers want to be hired in order to satisfy some minority quota? HELLS NO. No one wants counterfeit tolerance.
Once a person is hired and settled in, how often does the minority card yet played? As a co-op student, I have luckily never had to play this card. I have yet to deal with any any uncomfortable situations. I’ll admit, I feel empowered when I observe being one of the few female developers in a team.
Thinking about being a minority definitely happens when it is being pointed out (whether harmless or not). Perhaps being involved in a niche community prepares people to react more effectively. Case in point, LGBT tech communities facilitate discussions on harassment and bullying.
It would be great to easily eliminate the negative, racist, sexist, or prejudicial things people think about, but clearly that’s wishful thinking. What we can do to encourage tolerance and respectful behaviour. This is where certain niche communities have excelled; the ones who have reached out beyond their demographic.
Regardless, do people have the right to believe in ideas that are against minorities? This question alludes to Brendan Eich, who recently resigned as CEO at Mozilla over controversy concerning Prop 8. During his time as CEO, Mozilla did not release products that explicitly excluded the LGBT community. Like the earlier example I made on being a “solid programmer”, in this society, our individual values always takes precedence. So yes, being an opponent of same-sex marriage does matter.
Although the code being written for software is homogenous, the people writing are not. They have to work together and treat each other respectfully. Being respectful also entails embracing diversity not making minorities out of people. I’ve always thought it was somewhat melodramatic to have so many sub-communities for the minorities in technology, but I’m realizing more that is the only way we can get people to embrace one another – by pointing out the obvious.