Inclusion has to be proactive
Many times I’ve seen event organisers, publishers, employers and various initiative leaders being genuinely surprised that the diversity outcome of their efforts was less than ideal. “But our Call for Proposals was open” or “anyone can participate!” they tend to say. Unfortunately, these excuses are not good enough and let me tell you why.
We can’t expect underrepresented individuals to show up when their daily lives are filled with harassment, fear and unequal treatment.
It’s an unfair assumption to make. We don’t want to partake in events, communities or be employed by organisations furthering exclusion and toxic culture and the only way to tell the difference is though visible commitment, actions, programs or proactive outreach. And even then, there are no guarantees.
Simply opening up an opportunity to broader public doesn’t constitute an inclusion strategy. We have to be much more deliberate and proactive to create a welcoming space.
How to practice proactivity
Naturally, there are no universal, catch-all solutions to multiple scenarios, but there are a few strategies that can be applied especially in the tech event and publishing space.
Seek individuals out, especially those, who aren’t typically featured (we all know each space has the most go-to presenters or writers — enable the diversity of voices and backgrounds by avoiding making the popular choice). If you’re following an anonymous submission process, invite them to take part in Call for Proposals, articles or participation. Ensure you provide clear guidelines for applications, deadlines, what you’re offering (pay people for their time in one way or another) and explain your commitment to inclusion.
During that process, for many, it seems natural to ask members of underrepresented groups for help or recommendations — resist that urge. You’re putting extra pressure and requesting free labour from people who already have more than enough on their plates. Moreover, often those people do the same research you’d perform to find out who to recommend. Do your homework.
There’s no excuse for failing to explore diversity in the interconnected world of the Web. We have more possibilities to reach people than ever before.
Recently, I wrote how lack of a Code of Conduct is better than the presence of a failing one. Again, expecting underrepresented groups to participate in spaces without governance or lack of enforceable conduct isn’t realistic. One of my basic expectations is a sense of safety, predictable process and accountability from the stewards of the community.
Read about Code of Conducts. Implement and enforce one in your community. Communicate it visibly and often (no, tiny type in the footer area or deep down, hidden on a subpage, a million clicks away doesn’t constitute for good visibility).
Going beyond gender
Often, diversity efforts are focused solely on gender (concentrating on including white women, to be specific). While it’s reasonable to start somewhere, diversity and inclusion are nowhere near one dimensional.
There are other underrepresented groups including, but not limited to LGBTQI+ community, African-American, Latina or Latino and people with disabilities. The list becomes long even without mentioning the concept of intersectionality and how different types of oppression interconnect and affect people in various ways.
We need to be inclusive of all of these groups.
Putting accessibility on the forefront is necessary. We need to be ready to offer support to those in difficult situations, less flexible working arrangements, primary caregivers and people with varying degrees of disability.
Especially in the event space, outlining what to expect becomes crucial to welcoming anyone with hearing, sight impairments or mobility issues. Accessibility statements cater to a much broader audience, setting the tone for the level of support and comfort to anticipate.
Transparency and intentional communication benefits all, but especially the underrepresented groups.
These are only a few, reasonably basic strategies to start with on your quest for proactive inclusion.
This article is made possible by lovely Patreon supporters, backing my diversity and inclusion efforts. I intend to publish on D&I topics once a week and create reusable resources, guides, and apps. Support it if you’re inclined.