Exclusion in Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

The two biggest virtue signaling buzzwords in tech right now are “diversity” and “inclusion”. Tech is supposedly an industry rampant with racist and misogynistic white men using despicable hiring criteria like “culture fit” – how dare you want to work with people you’d enjoy being around five days a week – which does nothing but deter people within underrepresented groups from tech.

There are a growing number of solutions to this “problem”. You have companies like Paradigm which has a very predictable portfolio of liberal Silicon Valley companies including Slack, Twitter, and Asana. There’s also Project Include which seems to spend less time doing actual work with companies and more time writing opinion pieces against outspoken Republicans in tech like Peter Thiel or completely overreacting to what the next four years in America will be like with Donald Trump as president. Thankfully, there are some slightly more respectable grassroots initiatives that don’t seem to have a direct way of profiting off diversity like Github repos containing a list of speakers from underrepresented groups “who want a platform”.

I asked the owners of the repository to define “underrepresented groups” only to be told that my question was “irrelevant” and “mildly derailing and analytical for no intent outside of picking one’s brain for the lulz”. How dare you ask someone to openly define their goals!

All of these groups and many others seem to ignore the fact that any group, no matter how hard you try, will be exclusionary to some degree. Sometimes it’s obvious. Gender, race, and sexual orientation aside, a JavaScript conference will exclude people who don’t use or care about JavaScript. But sometimes, it’s not so obvious.

Imagine identifying as LGBT and being raised in a conservative, religious family. You live most of your life being told that homosexuality is unnatural and wrong. To be homosexual would not only go against your religion but create chaos within your family.

You move on with life, go to college, get a degree, and enter the tech industry. You want to be more active within the community – attending conferences and maybe even giving talks at them. You see conferences specifically for women, people of color, and LGBT-identifying individuals. “A tech conference and a platform for us” they say.

But you can’t help but think, “Who is us?”. How could you, with a fundamentally religious family, possibly attend this conference?

You can’t share pictures of the conference on Instagram like so many others. You can’t post a picture of yourself on an airplane – to do so would invite questions from family. Even if you went dark on social media, you can’t even put this valuable experience on your LinkedIn profile, website, or resume.

If you go and your family finds out, a simple process of elimination of the underrepresented groups outs you for who you are. Outs you for something you do not wish to share with your family.

Tech is an industry that’s at the forefront of increasing diversity and inclusion efforts for underrepresented groups. I don’t agree with these efforts for a variety of reasons [1, 2, 3]. If you do, keep in mind that even a conference with inclusion for underrepresented groups within tech as an explicit goal isn’t inclusive to all programmers within that group. Your diversity and inclusion initiative may end up discouraging some of the very people you intend to help.

Exclusion in Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
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