Fred Stevens-Smith
Jul 28, 2016 · 3 min read

A note on diversity.

Context: I recently sent this email to our whole team. During our quarterly onsite, we held a ‘ladies night happy hour’ which had the subtitle ‘no boys allowed!’. When the feedback for the week came in, someone expressed concern that it was exclusionary. This created a very interesting discussion internally. This is a verbatim reproduction of the email, so there’s some shitty grammar etc.

Diversity of gender, race and most importantly opinion is CRUCIAL to our success. I thank you all for candidly sharing your thoughts and feedback with us. I’m currently reading the (anonymous) feedback on the onsite, and I read a note that really worries me. I want to bring it up with all of you so that 1) the person that wrote it can reconsider their opinion and 2) you can all know how I think about this.

The comment was basically “it’s exclusionary to have a womens-only happy hour in a company that focuses on diversity.”

Since you’re all awesome I believe this person is coming from a good place, so I give whoever wrote this the benefit of the doubt. I expect everyone else to do the same. This is a problem of education not of mindset.

it’s very helpful to use the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement as an analogy. Some people in American society are against the phrase because they believe that ‘All Lives Matter’ and to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ is racist against other people and implicitly means ‘all lives don’t matter’. The very same complaint from our anonymous commenter. Logically the complaint seems reasonable. However, it’s wrong. As usual, photos tell a thousand words.

To make the link explicit, it’s harder to be a woman in tech than a man in tech. Tech, as much as any other part of the business world, places different rules and expectations on women, simply because of their gender. Women represent a minority in tech. It can be useful, therefore, to give women — or any minority — a space to discuss what it means to be a minority and how best to navigate the path of a career successfully, common challenges faced, and best responses to them. To share information and help each other become successful. Explicitly recognizing that minorities face additional challenges doesn’t imply that being in the majority is easy. Explicitly giving people a space to have these discussions doesn’t mean that nobody else can have the discussions.

I would welcome a dialog with anyone that wishes to debate this or understand it more deeply. Education is key, and my hope is this comment is born of ignorance rather than something more disturbing (like chauvinism for example).

We live in tense, hateful times. As a company we have an obligation to ourselves and to society to be better than this.

    Fred Stevens-Smith

    Written by

    Co-founder & CEO at @RainforestQA. I care about simplicity and usability and success. In my personal life I care about friends, hobbies, free time, mental space