Manferences, Powwows, and the Assumptions We Make
5 Ally Actions | Aug 31, 2018
Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive tech workplace.
1. Pledge to speak only on diverse panels and speaker line-ups
This week, we learned a new word: “Manference.” Susan Frank used it in a tweet about the all-male conference line-up featured on the AI Frontiers conference page:
Makes us wonder what would have happened if those men had asked about the conference’s plans for a diverse line-up before agreeing to speak. Would the conference organizers have made it a higher priority to invite women (and other underrepresented people)? They did respond to Susan’s tweet saying they were in the process of confirming 2 female speakers. But, 2 women out of 27 isn’t exactly a diverse slate.
To be better allies, let’s all ask about diversity before accepting an invitation to give a keynote or be on a panel. And, as men, pledge not to speak at Manferences or on Manels.
2. Assume someone working in a conference booth can answer your technical questions
Over on Twitter, someone posted, “Please give me an example of something someone said to you that was so astonishingly stupid that you can never forget it.”
Alice Goldfuss, an engineer at GitHub, tweeted a response so telling that we may never forget it:
at conference booth* MAN: I'd like to speak to someone technical ME: that's me! MAN: no, like an engineer ME: I'm an engineer MAN: you're a manager?
Folks, if you meet someone working in a conference or trade-show booth, assume they can answer your technical questions. Even if they don’t fit your definition of what an engineer should look like.
3. Similarly, assume people working in a lab know their stuff
Here’s another memorable tweet about the assumptions we make, by Linda Columbus, principal investigator of The Columbus Lab within the Dept. of Chemistry at UVA:
in the elevator wm: who's lab are you in? me: mine wm: no, I mean who is the PI of the lab? me: I am wm: in what Professor's lab? me: the Columbus lab and I am Columbus
We hope you love that last line as much as we do.
#4. Don’t use “powwow” to describe a meeting
Yesterday, we used the word “powwow” to refer to a decision-making meeting we were about to have. As we said it, we realized we should have chosen another word. One that would be more inclusive and respectful of Native Americans and their heritage.
And then we saw Michelle Glauser’s tweet. It was as if she were listening in on our conversation.
Folks-let's help each other not use the word "powwow" when referring to meetings. If you do, please apologize and try something else. If you hear others do this, please call them out. Let's be respectful to Native Americans.
Michelle then went on to provide some easy alternatives: “meeting,” “check-in,” “stand-up,” “talk,” “huddle,” “one-on-one.”
5. Just say no to informational interviews
After being inundated by requests for informational meetings to discuss some newly opened positions, the Firefox User Research team decided to decline all of them. Understandably, they didn’t think they had the bandwidth. But, more importantly, they felt that meeting with candidates outside of the formal hiring process would give unfair advantage to some candidates and undermine the work they were doing to remove bias from their hiring process.
We found ourselves wondering how we might have introduced bias (either for or against candidates) via informational interviews. How about you?
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