What does diversity mean? What does it look like?

by Logan Henderson

The question surrounding what diversity "means" and "looks like" is indicative of a lack of something I can’t put my finger on but seems to infantilize those who its being asked. It’s curious to ask such a basic question while I see many who stumble between the semblance of what diversity means and what its implication in the technology industry would be.

It seems in myriad conversations around methods and qualifications of change, questions always surround the foundation, or what particular words or concepts mean to get the audience to understand rather than asking more challenging and ultimately more impactful questions. Of course, audiences shouldn’t be alienated because they don’t comprehend the conversation, but they (likely) aren’t children and (probably) know how to use the internet to ask questions.

The meaning of diversity is asked in so many variations that I feel diversity is no longer an accurate word because simply talking about it has become the solution. This is an illusion. That is what I have learned in the short interactions I have had.If it’s an illusion, then what? I don’t know. Hire people who don’t think like you. Or hire people who aren’t you (your experiences, your background). Hire people who challenge you to be better and do better.

Similarly, folks in leadership positions must spend time with these people and not just have them working under them. This can be challenging because 1) folks rarely move away from their established friend and peer groups if they are already comfortable where there are, and 2) folks with the potential to harm us, shouldn’t effectively invade our spaces just to get to know us.

With both of these obstacles almost unmovable, radically-motivated literature is also a great place to start as well. Though I don’t believe this is a thing, and it would be great if it were, industry leads can pay “diverse” people to teach them about diversity. And as a conclusion of the program, they have to hire a certain number of “diverse” people.    

It may look something like:

  • Meetings over coffee/tea/juice to get to know each other or to simply outline the process of the program

  • Which then escalates to meetings over meals, where you can get more in depth clients are only allowed to listen unless given permission to speak

  • The diversity teacher may rotate to teach about different experiences of folks and provide a variety of perspectives and solutions.

This is a very simplified model, but I imagine it may have a more meaningful impact, than throwing someone who performs "diversity" in a company and expecting them to stay to improve the company image despite the harmful behaviors and experiences in the environment that drives diverse talent back out rather than let it thrive.

This idea is beneficial in the long run--especially for the individual but for the company too. Though most helpful of all would be to hire diverse folks who have experienced adversity in those positions in the first place.

Activism and Tech at Slack

by Logan Henderson

Last week I attended the Earthtones event for People of Color in tech put on by Slack staff. There were short presentations by technologist Stacy La, Github VP Nicole Sanchez, and Slack employee Nishant Totla, and an interview with activist, Deray McKesson and entrepreneur, Anil Dash of Makerbase.

They all shared with the audience about their work and experiences as POC in tech. I particularly enjoyed hearing Nishant and his perspective as an international student and what he has learned since meeting students and other folks in the US like how people perceive him without bothering to get to know him and the ways colorism manifests in India.

Here is a list of notable takeaways from Deray’s commentary that are useful for all people of color working in the field of activism or technology:

  • Being well-known leads to a sort of “scaled intimacy.”

  • On coalition building: it’s important because we may not have the same goals, but we do want to live in the same world. This statement made me think about deeper questions, such as: If ultimately our desires are the same, then what are the barriers to coalition building effectively? And are we not assuming that people want to live in the same world?

  • “Challenge from without, and change from within.” Right now we are challenging from the outside but soon we will begin to make change from within through work on boards and within organizations.  But what does or could this look like? Is attempting to change from within worth it if the foundation of the organization is tainted or rotten? These are questions we all need to think through.

  • “You’re enough to build a movement.” We can all counteract the voices and institutions that say we aren’t enough of anything.

  • “[You] can keep going despite encountering hostility” by making a commitment to fight today and fight tomorrow, and make that commitment everyday. Even then, Deray urges us to be mindful of people who are addicted or committed to fighting but not to the outcome.

  • “You don’t need permission to act [or] feel like you aren’t “enough.” (Enough of an activist, or Black enough, or Trans enough).

One question that really moved me during the event focused on healthcare and how we think about Healthcare beyond hospitals. Similarly, how do we take care of ourselves and each other beyond institutions, people, methods that have failed us repeatedly? These are questions that I’ll continue to think through as a black trans person.

Each talk reaffirmed for me thoughts that I always try to hold onto: Anyone can change the world. Everyone has value not tied to money or how desirable they are, but by just being themselves.

 

 

#iBuild4: A hashtag campaign celebrating trans creators

In the past year, transgender visibility has peaked! Not only has mainstream media helped to propel our visibility but trans people are taking initiative in multiple spaces and are galvanizing a movement!

At Trans*H4CK we want to highlight this moment and the effect it's having in entrepreneurship and tech. Inspired by hashtags that celebrate the diversity of the tech community such as #ILookLikeAnEngineer, we’re launching #ibuild4 --a hashtag campaign that pushes conversations forward by showing the direct impact technology makes in the lives of transgender, genderqueer, agender & non binary people, who are often excluded as tech creators and innovators.

For the next two weeks, we will promote the incredible work trans people in technology are doing to create solutions to our most pressing social issues using the #ibuild4 hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

To participate, post a selfie on instagram or send a tweet that shares your work and the community that you build for using the hashtag: #ibuild4. For example, "I'm a developer and #ibuild4 marginalized people in tech." 

We will feature on our blog a collection of tweets/images from people in different sectors of technology. Our hope is to spark a national conversation on the contributions of the trans community.

As trans people, we are making powerful waves in technology and entrepreneurship.

Let’s tell the world who we build for!

 

Reflecting on Boston

The fourth installment of our traveling hackathon and speaker series was held in Boston, MA in partnership with Harvard Innovation Lab, along with support from Everyone HacksInterface Foundry, Hack/Reduce and Oracle Academy.

The weekend event kicked off with a intimate workshop, "How to Rock Your First Hackathon," for first time hackathon participants to learn ways to successfully contribute to a team using their skills and have fun.

In keeping with the Harvard i-Lab's theme of entrepreneurship and innovation, Friday evening featured a panel conversation with transgender founders of tech companies and social enterprises. The discussion touched on a range of topics, such as the need for trans people to to hold leadership roles in for-profit entities to expanding diversity in tech conversations to include all types of genders.

Moderator: Dr. Kortney Ziegler. Panelists: Angelica Ross; Lourdes Hunter; Evelyn Rios; Allyson Robinson; Riley Johnson

The next day, the hackers gathered to pitch ideas, form teams, and begin working on their projects. Ideas ranged from an app to spotlight trans people to an interface that makes REFUGE Restrooms more accessible through mobile platforms.

At the end of the two day hackathon, six teams presented their projects to a panel of esteemed judges ranging from software engineers to Harvard faculty.  The winning team, pitched the concept for an app called FITTED, which helps trans people (and everyone else) find jeans online according to their body type.  The team drew from their own personal experiences as well as data collected over the weekend to design their prototype.

Check out (and use) the projects developed at Trans*H4CK Boston and follow participants on Twitter:

TransMADE

A platform that highlights individuals, organizations, events and projects that are created by trans leaders in an effort to address the much asked question: Where are the trans professionals or trans-led projects?

 

Trans Record

An app that rates healthcare providers & data collection to serve the health needs of the transgender community.

 

Who Did You Miss?

Simple to use form site that contacts conference organizers to encourage and recommend diverse speakers.

 

YORESTROOMS

Send a Yo to YORESTROOMS and find the closest gender safe bathrooms using REFUGE Restrooms data.

 

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