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Gatekeeping, Inclusive Events, and The Way We React to Rage

5 Ally Actions | Sept 14, 2018

strung out by theilr via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive tech workplace.

1. Judge emotions equitably

Thanks to the U.S. Open, we have a highly visible example of a woman, specifically a woman of color, being treated differently than her male counterparts. As you probably know, umpire Carlos Ramos penalized Serena Williams for getting angry after being warned about a hand signal from her coach. But did you also know that Ramos has been on the receiving end of similar anger from male players and has not docked them for it? Check out this story in The Cut for details.

Whether in tennis or in tech, we should be judging emotions equitably. If we’re okay with men expressing rage at work, we also need to be okay with other genders doing the same.

2. Create an inclusive checklist for third-party events

Many tech companies offer to host community events at their offices. Maybe yours does, too? If so, consider what Mapbox recently did to help ensure that events they host at their offices are inclusive of underrepresented people in the tech industry. They created an Inclusive Events Checklist.

Such a simple idea. We hope it catches on.

(Thanks to Dom Brassey for bringing this checklist to our attention.)

3. Don’t be a gatekeeper

Anna Gifty, an undergraduate Math/Econ major, tweeted that a professor tried to discourage her from pursuing a PhD in economics. The professor emphasized that “Math is very difficult” and asked “are you sure you can handle the rigors of the discipline.”

In sharp contrast, Dr. Patty Lopez responded with what she does in similar situations. “When someone asks me if they should try research, do something new, switch managers, change employers, I connect them to my network. #DontBeAGateKeeper”

We couldn’t agree more.

4. Don’t give “unconscious demotions”

Even though we’ve mentioned “unconscious demotions” in our newsletter before, we feel compelled to bring it up again. Because apparently it happens a lot.

Erin Maloney, an Assistant Professor in cognitive psychology at University of Ottawa, tweeted about her recent experience:

Folks, when talking with someone about their work, let’s be careful not to give them an “unconscious demotion.” Instead of stating that we think they’re in a position lower than their real one, ask an open-ended question, like “What do you do?” Or perhaps, in the case of that man on the bus, “How long have you been teaching?”

5. Don’t debate the experiences of others

When hearing about harassment or exclusionary behavior from someone who is an underrepresented gender or minority, there’s a good chance you won’t have experienced it yourself. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

As Sheree Atcheson tweeted, “If you are not from an underrepresented and/or marginalised community, you cannot dictate what their thoughts/life experiences have been, are or can be.”

Allies, let’s not debate the experiences of others. Instead, listen, ask questions, learn, and then take action.

Becoming an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference.