well past time
October 22, 2015 6:56 AM   Subscribe

"We all know tech is excluding most people from participating. But one group is actually over represented. And we’ve been conspicuously silent." Metafilter's own Anil Dash asserts that "Asian American men who work in tech are benefitting from tech’s systematic exclusion of women and non-Asian minorities" and gives some recommendations about what they should do about it.
posted by Potomac Avenue (23 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
A great article. I don't have a lot to add, except:

Listen and believe. Talk to your coworkers who belong to underrepresented groups. Listen to their stories and experiences. Don’t be defensive, just listen. And then when they’re done, believe what they’re saying. Don’t explain it away, don’t play devil’s advocate. Believe that they know just as much as you, are as smart and capable as you, and have had experiences that you don’t know about.

This is also super-great advice for anyone posting to the Blue or Gray (or anywhere, really).
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:12 AM on October 22, 2015 [37 favorites]


This is such a great template for how to be a good ally to social justice in your chosen profession, tech or not.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, all. I wrote this last year but sadly it's every bit as relevant a year later. Hope this concern gets on the radar of every exec in the technology industry.
posted by anildash at 8:20 AM on October 22, 2015 [32 favorites]


That's wild, Medium just emailed me about it this morning thought it was recent. I cannot read dates apparently. Good stuff though.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:49 AM on October 22, 2015


It seems to me that the gender ratio is worse among white people in tech than among Asians and Asian Americans in tech. Is this true?

And black people are so underrepresented that their gender ratio seems almost incalculable. Anecdotally: I know plenty of Asian/Asian-American women in tech; I do not personally know a *single* African American of either gender in tech, outside of academia.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:51 AM on October 22, 2015


Thanks, Anil.

One thing that I think we've been grappling with at our workplace is balancing the value of recruiting via employee referrals against the fact that many of our own social networks are not that diverse; and I think that tends to be even more the case with immigrant communities. Immigrant communities cluster with each other and network with each other, but hardly network across ethnic lines. I think there's an aspect of "us against the predominant culture" that still keeps many immigrant and post-immigrant groups from bonding or befriending peers in other immigrant cultures, and it's something that we need to push back against.

With regards to being an immigrant and on a visa ... I've been on one form of H1-B or TN or F-class for nigh 20 years. I think one thing that's helped me with feeling confident about asserting for change in my groups is understanding that there's something implicit in many visa categories that you are actually exceptional. Someone decided that you were worth the expense of the paperwork. Someone decided that you were worth sponsoring. You matter. You have power. You can use it. You are not an imposter.

Finally, I know you mentioned it a bit in the article, but it's worth reinforcing that many of our communities have their own implicit and historical biases that weigh them down. Our cultures have our own flavors of misogyny and our dim view on our historical neighbors. I've seen relationships between Filipino-Americans and Korean-Americans break up because one of the parents didn't want their child marrying 'one of those people', and many of us have also inherited the dominant culture's negative stereotypes against Black and Latino immigrants. We don't get a free pass just because we aren't white and aren't in the spotlight.
posted by bl1nk at 8:59 AM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I remember when the Mary Tyler Moore show wanted to use John Amos just because he's awesome, and the no-brainer move was to make him the sportscaster, and instead they made him the weatherman, because nobody in the writers room ever heard of a black weatherman at the time. And then it was a running joke, where he kept puzzling over why everybody assumed he was the sports guy.

My point being, fuck you, Big Bang Theory.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:03 AM on October 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


Whenever the issue of diversity and the difficulty of hiring diversely comes up I think of my last job, where I worked with several startups in a consulting capacity.

Two startups in particular, run very differently. One was exactly what you expected. All white, mostly male. Ironically, their user base was very much the opposite: majority women, majority POC.

The second startup was majority women, majority POC, all in technical roles. The only white people after their first year was the CEO, and one of the female developers.

They were hiring from the same job pool, shared the same funding, even shared the same office. Two companies, run very differently. One was very considered in hiring the best people, and one filled bodies as fast as they could. Two companies that look very different, due to differences in philosophy from the top.
posted by danny the boy at 9:47 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


One was very considered in hiring the best people, and one filled bodies as fast as they could.

are you going to tell us which is which? i know what i hope the answer is but
posted by twist my arm at 10:21 AM on October 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


fuck you, Big Bang Theory.

Kunal Nayyar's book which just came out Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You is supposed to be good and I hope can talk about some of this stuff (still waiting for it at my library)
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry thought it was obvious that the company taking its time to find quality people ended up being diverse. Well not ended up. It wasn't an accident.

Basically it's why I think people are basically full of shit when they say their companies aren't diverse because POC candidates don't exist.
posted by danny the boy at 12:39 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Or more to the point of the article, speaking as an Asian dude, there is a lot more qualified "diversity" available out there beyond just Asian dudes. Like kind of easily.
posted by danny the boy at 12:49 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Basically it's why I think people are basically full of shit when they say their companies aren't diverse because POC candidates don't exist.

In approximately 5 years, I have had exactly two PoC candidates apply to work for me (and several hundred, perhaps several thousand, non-PoC candidates). I hired both (one male, one female). Does that make me a racist, because my candidate profile is so highly skewed with respect to the population distribution, or an ally, because I have a 100% hiring rate for PoC candidates?
posted by sockmypuppet at 1:18 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


YAYYYYY TEAM DIVERSITY I KNEW IN MY HEART IT WAS YOU THE WHOLE TIME

thanks for clarifying danny the boy. i think there might be a lesson there that, even though i'm a woman of color who spends all this time on metafilter listening to other people being like women are awesome, diverse is better! hiring practices are bullshit! i still needed that confirmation from someone on the ground that yes, this place did it fairly and was better for it.

we are always so prepared to be told we're not good enough that, simply because you were vague and switched the order of white and male/PoC and female to best people/filled bodies, there was that little quiet voice that was like "don't assume he means us. don't assume don't assume."

i'm not even going to get to the weirdness of hoping positive things happen to this company i don't know with employees i don't know as related to me by an internet stranger. that's what oppression does man. you just want ANY of "us" to win anywhere.

or whatever, maybe i can't read.
posted by twist my arm at 1:24 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


In approximately 5 years, I have had exactly two PoC candidates apply to work for me (and several hundred, perhaps several thousand, non-PoC candidates). I hired both (one male, one female). Does that make me a racist, because my candidate profile is so highly skewed with respect to the population distribution, or an ally, because I have a 100% hiring rate for PoC candidates?
it means that you have a high likelihood of missing out on some great talent because your hiring pipelines are not optimized to find the best people.

This isn't just a social justice / feel good thing. There are great, smart, driven people out there who could be great colleagues and co-workers, but are getting left out of the selection pool because of systemic bias. If you have an interest in hiring good people, you owe it to yourself to ensure that you're spreading a sufficiently wide net to attract those people. If your pipelines are not close to being representative of the population from then you're missing out.
posted by bl1nk at 1:35 PM on October 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


If you have an interest in hiring good people, you owe it to yourself to ensure that you're spreading a sufficiently wide net to attract those people.

Serious question - how do I do that? Is there a person I can hire, a class I can take, or a consultant I can talk with to do this?

I have thought about this for a while, and I can't just attribute it to interviewer bias (which I'm sure is present). I just literally do not get any PoC candidates. I can't hire them if they don't apply. If they don't apply, I don't know what knobs I can turn to make them apply.

I will admit I am embarrassed about my hiring. My initial response was out of frustration with the presumption that there is some sort of conspiracy to avoid hiring PoC candidates. There may be, but I don't see it from my point of view.
posted by sockmypuppet at 1:52 PM on October 22, 2015


sockmypuppet: I think the difference between your experience and danny the boy's experience is location. I bet that the companies in danny the boy's example are located in an area with a large amount of diversity whereas your company is probably located in a less diverse area.
posted by I-baLL at 2:03 PM on October 22, 2015


I could (and have) given talks about this topic. Here is my tl;dr free of charge version
  • JobLint to screen for language that is off-putting to candidates
  • Be aware of screening criteria that are biased: specific schools, internships that require certain socio-economic status
  • Women don't apply for jobs unless they're 100% qualified
  • Evaluate how welcoming your screening process is. Does it match what you actually need them to do on the job?
  • Office culture and the whisper network matter a lot. Women and minorities will self select out of jobs if they feel that the work environment isn't healthy for them.
  • Advertise where women/PoC are (meetups/newsletters/forums)
  • Flexible work hours & remote work
  • Ask the women/PoC in your office to help you but recognize that this is work. If you truly care about this then reward this in performance evaluations and recognize the opportunity cost of doing this work.
  • Take the time to read the copious literature on this topic all over the internet. This is an ongoing process.
  • Once they're hired, make sure they're incentivized to stay there. Microaggressions and harassment are real, they hurt, and they will cause people to leave. And talk about you.
posted by hindmost at 2:04 PM on October 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


someone who doesn't know the facts: i don't know where you are or anything else about your company but i'm sure you did everything you could and it's not your fault.

expert: list of solid actual no-shit things you could do to increase diversity

I-baLL, danny the boy's examples included a company with no diversity and a company with diversity, both hiring from exactly the same pool. it's not enough to be located in an area with diversity.

that's great hindmost, thank you.
posted by twist my arm at 2:16 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it depends on your industry and how you typically do recruiting. Do you use headhunters/recruiters? Job boards? College job fairs? Referrals? Do you do your own recruiting or are the resumes passed to you from an internal person in HR? All of those things matter, and all of those things will change our answers.

This is a blog post that I wrote for our company on our own efforts and what we learned.

but to also reinforce a few of the points that hindmost indicated:

Wording of your job descriptions totally matters. Don't treat job requirements as negotiable. Treat them as requirements, because your candidates do too. Don't write up a wall of text around a bunch of nice-to-haves that sound like must-haves. If you write your jobs as being intimidating off the bat, you will discourage a lot of people who will think that you aren't worth their time.

Be upfront and aggressive about stating how you support diversity and provide concrete examples and language about how you actively reject a lot of the bullshit metrics that are usually used to maintain structural bias. Our particular key phrase for our software engineering jobs is: "We welcome diversity and non-traditional paths into the developer profession, and advocate strongly for hiring the right person as opposed to the right combination of tech keywords."

there a bunch of people that I interviewed that explicitly stated that the sentence above alone made them say, 'yes, I want to give this place a shot.'

Talk to others about helping you. Not just women or PoC at work, but also talk to your friends and other colleagues. Sitting down with a bunch of people and asking "how do you look for jobs?" "what motivates you to apply?" "what makes you think it's not worth your time?" all of that was super helpful for me in helping set up our own recruiting strategy, and identifying which job forums to target for postings, as well as how to revise our job text.

I can say for myself, that the lowest effort method that I had for building a diverse team was working with recruiters/staffing firms. They're expensive, but many of them know a lot of people looking for work and will be happy to work with you because it also solves a problem for them around having a stable of talent that they need to sell to others.

Beyond that, going out to job fairs at dev conferences and maintaining a presence at local meetups has also been good. Being an advocate for diversity in a public way is also useful. But with all that said, it's definitely not easy. We haven't solved it yet, but there's also a bunch more stuff to try, and we've had incremental improvements with the efforts that we've made so far.
posted by bl1nk at 2:26 PM on October 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Anil, how has the response to this been?
posted by cell divide at 2:32 PM on October 22, 2015


In approximately 5 years, I have had exactly two PoC candidates apply to work for me (and several hundred, perhaps several thousand, non-PoC candidates).

That's an excellent list of advice that hindmost posted. I would also add that in this kind of economy, it's not enough to wait for someone to submit a resume to you. All the companies I've worked with have actively headhunted/recruited out of necessity.

But honestly, the two companies in my anecdote were both unable to hide what kind of culture they were each looking to build. It showed in the job description (which were... quite different), the way the people interacted with candidates over phone/email, the copy on the website, on and on.

And smart candidates are really good at self-selecting. Every hire at the "good" startup was for someone who had multiple offers on the table, because they were talented. I have no doubt that with each new "diversity hire" it got so much easier to convince others to take our offer. Because we didn't look like everyone else...
posted by danny the boy at 3:32 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you are serious about looking for a consultant / lecture in the bay area, this is something I am available for, but it's both too long of a topic to go into here and something that I am no longer willing to do for free because of the time and energy commitment.
posted by hindmost at 5:12 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


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