What we will talk about at the HasGeek diversity open house on 17 March
In the course of my work at HasGeek in the last six years, I have been accumulating insights and questions about women in tech and diversity. My concerns have expanded in the following ways:
1. The definition of women in tech must include women who are not programmers, but are performing numerous leadership and support functions that do not involve coding.
2. The inclusivity agenda — be it at conferences, meet-ups or workplaces — must necessarily include persons of non-binary genders. This is because men and women are most likely to be uncomfortable about interactions with trans-men, trans-women and LGBT persons. Inclusiveness must involve being open about such discomforts, and interacting with those we are not comfortable with.
3. Our language must change. We must get into the habit of referring to engineers as “she” and “her” in order to change our unconscious biases and stereotypes regarding men and women in tech. Similarly, the term “primary caretakers” should be used in reference to caring-giving for children. This is because the words “mother” and “mothering” have become socio-cultural handles for the ‘default’ stereotype that only women are responsible for taking care of children.
In the last seven months, we have made the following changes at HasGeek conferences:
- We have a standee that clearly mentions the code of conduct for the event, and mechanisms for redressal in case of violation. This simple act has helped us to establish trust and accountability.
- We have childcare facilities at our conferences since November 2016. While there have been no takers for the facility, we believe in having it there so that it acts as a reminder and an invitation for caregivers and parents who may otherwise have felt deterred from participating.
Acts of converting visions — for women in tech, diversity and inclusiveness — into programmes is what I intend to talk about at the diversity open house on 17 March. The three programmes that we want to talk about are:
- How can we increase outreach to women, persons of non-binary genders, Asians and Africans — in terms of participation and speaking at HasGeek conferences, meet-ups, open houses and other gatherings? I also want to solicit volunteers to help with the diversity grants programme we have introduced for all HasGeek conferences. We need help with outreach to diverse groups, getting more applications for grants, and setting the criteria for the filtering process.
- Krithika Murugesan and I want to speak about building a set of pointers on how to curate events and gatherings for women in tech. Many of the current interventions fail to recognize that women have different needs, aspirations and fears. Therefore, different women need different levels of interventions. By bundling everyone into the bucket of ‘women in tech’ we fundamentally fail to recognize diversity among women. Consequently, we end up with programmes for the sake of programmes, losing sight of the larger vision.
- Arun Mahadevan wants to build a website along the lines of Model View Culture which addresses the situation regarding women in tech and diversity in tech in India.
The format of this open house is largely un-conference style. We’ll have a round of introductions at the start, set the context quickly (hopefully, you’d have read this blog post by then), and then break into smaller groups where we talk about the above projects, and other projects that some of you may want to bring in. At the end of 45 minutes of discussions, we’d like each group to come up and present their ideas.
I don’t intend for this open house to preach to the converted. Bring as many people along as you like — with diverse opinions.
The issue of diversity is very complex. It is also difficult to implement in practice. Let’s use this opportunity to discuss our ideas, seek collaborators, and be open to examining our biases and constraints that may not have been known to us earlier.
To attend the open house, RSVP here: https://www.facebook.com/events/264924527296806/