Thank you, Amélie.
I’d like to share with you another black woman’s experience in tech: https://modelviewculture.com/news/interview-with-amelie-lamont. Please read it, share it, comment on it, and most of all, thank Amélie and Model View Culture for bringing it to us.
I personally thank Amélie for reliving the pain of her experiences and dealing with emotional aftercare required, so that people in tech can get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a black woman in this industry.
“I unfollowed you because you talk so much about race stuff.” — White Dude
People get annoyed with me because I talk so much about how important diversity and inclusion is. Some even go so far as to tell me about their annoyance. Those people fail to understand that the reason I keep talking about it is that the same problems I wrote about in 2014 are still happening. When I wrote my piece, I was overwhelmed by the number of black and brown women and men who came to me and said “Yup. Exactly. Me too.” Those folks weren’t in positions to speak out, as so many of us are struggling to overcome the biases everyone has around us has, while trying to pay the bills and maybe, hopefully if we’re lucky, advance in our careers. And so I thank Amélie for taking that risk and stepping forward to give folks another glimpse of what life is like for a black woman in the tech industry.
But why does it keep happening?
I’ve had countless “discussions” with folks for calling things out, imploring me to stick to the processes, let “leadership” handle issues, let things work through the system. The reality is that the system in tech doesn’t work for a lot of us. The only way anyone ever hears about that is because some of us are willing to call things out in a way that doesn’t allow our voices to be silenced or filtered through the lens of corporate spin. And so I thank Amélie for raising her voice.
The fact of the matter is, the “talk to a manager” or “talk to HR” thing rarely, if ever, works out for us. Same with the “just do the right things and you’ll succeed” beliefs. So too for “being assertive and going after what you want.” (Aside: People grate at how “aggressive” black women are, but then blame our lack of advancement on the idea that we don’t aggressively go after advancement. How sway?) There is nothing in this system that works to the advantage of black women. Not pay (which is 63¢ on the dollar compared to white men), not support, not promotion, not sponsorship, not mentorship, not funding, not anything.
“Why would I want to end racism when it benefits me?” — White Dude
You don’t see our stories on Hacker News. You don’t see VCs having heated Twitter debates about these issues. Most VCs are white dudes. Though I’m not privy to their Google Analytics data, I’m betting most readers of Hacker News are white dudes. This is a system that works very well for white dudes. Their experience tells them that everything is hunky dory, and so very few speak out about it. In fact, quite a few will argue that this broken system is just fine and it needs no change. And because the story of Silicon Valley, the story of this tech industry, is the one they’re telling, you wouldn’t know what the rest of us were experiencing unless I was telling you, or Adria was telling you, or Angie was telling you, or Julie was telling you, or Amélie was telling you. So, I’m super grateful to Amélie and every other woman of color who takes immense personal risk to add some fine details (:poop: :skull: :mask:) to the pretty pictures so many paint of Silicon Valley.
Thank you Amélie. Thank you Angie. Thank you Julie. Thank you Adria. Thank you to all the women of color who come forward next.
Don’t ask me how to fix it. Ask yourself how to fix it. Ask yourself how you can stop being complicit in this system. Ask yourself how many women of color you’ve sponsored. Ask yourself why you don’t take the same chances on women of color that you do on white dudes. Ask yourself why you’re not mentoring a woman of color. Ask yourself why your network doesn’t include any women of color. Ask yourself why you’re not following any women of color on Twitter. Ask yourself when the last time was that you talked to that one woman of color in your office about her career goals and how you can help her achieve them. Ask yourself why you’re hesitant about supporting a woman of color. Ask yourself why you think your company/network is plenty diverse because you include 2 white women. Ask yourself why you don’t speak up for women of color. Ask yourself why you exclude and malign the people who do speak up for women of color. When you finally come to the conclusion of racism and/or sexism (which can range from Donald Trump levels of toxic trash to the more mild “well I just don’t care about what those people care about and don’t care to understand them”) work on that. That’s how to fix it.
If you still feel compelled to go ask a woman of color for her thoughts or to “pick her brain” on these topics, pay her for her time or continue being complicit in the system of devaluing her.