I’m a Black Female Software Engineer and this is why I’m not going to help you with diversity at work

Steffany Brown
Feb 8, 2019 · 3 min read
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  1. I will if you pay me for it.

I was not born knowing about diversity and inclusion. A combination of traumatic experiences, emotional work, academic pursuit, and social justice training led me to develop a greater awareness around these issues than most people in the industry. Those things didn’t come free. I have therapists and student loans to pay. If you want access to the things I have had to pay for, you can pay me to teach you. Otherwise, I have no free labor to give you. Period. You can easily go pay to learn about those things somewhere else, just like I did.

2. It’s not my job.

I was hired to write code. I am not willing to have the responsibilities of my role be greater than they would be if a White person were in my position. By asking me to do extra work on top of the responsibilities associated with my position as a software engineer, you are discriminating against and exploiting me. (I say “asking,” but that’s giving you a lot of credit because the reality is usually that you are approaching me with the assumption that I SHOULD do this work and be grateful for it.) There’s plenty of data showing that I am already likely to be making less money than my peers and have to do more work for the same recognition, on top of managing the psychological impact of working in an environment that is toxic for people with my identity. I don’t need anything else on my plate.

3. It shows you don’t truly care about deep change.

Asking me to do this diversity work and provide free education on the matter shows that your company does not actually value diversity and inclusion for people like me. If they did, they would be willing to invest in paying actual experts in that field instead of relying upon managers and under-qualified HR people who then approach folks like me, who have careers in other fields, for knowledge and assistance. I see massive amounts of money thrown at “experts” in all sorts of areas in this industry, yet most seem to believe that diversity and inclusion should be volunteer work done by the very people who are already marginalized. That’s a big red flag showing how much you actually value and prioritize this issue.

Diversity and inclusion are integral to my survival in the industry and the world at large. Just taking care of myself and focusing on my career is putting a lot of effort into that area, which is something folks often seem to forget. Outside of doing my best to ensure that I don’t leave the industry like many other Black women (our numbers in tech are DECREASING), I happily opt-in to D&I work that I see as sincere, strategic, and safe for me to do. However, taking that on is my decision to make and is usually best done far away from my workplace.

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