Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

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What about those white men already in the room?

We bet this conversation is happening all over tech. Should inclusion initiatives focus on underrepresented groups, or a wider population? For us, the conversation started with that bro manifesto this summer. And came to a head this week when we read about Apple’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Denise Young Smith.

At a recent panel, Denise Young Smith said she focuses on everyone, not just people of color, or the women, or the LGBT. [link]

The audience reacted with a round of applause. If we had been there, we would have joined in. After all, we want to create inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive. Where everyone can do their best work.

But then she stuck her foot in her mouth, saying:

“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed blond men in a room, and they’re going to be diverse too.”

WTF?

After picking up our jaws from the floor, we thought more about this mindset. And thought back to an example where Apple failed to deliver the right product for a diverse customer base. The Health App. When Apple first released it, they claimed, “it tracks all the health metrics you care about.” Right. Except the one metric that women have been tracking since the dawn of civilization. Their period. Whoops.

We don’t know if 12 white, blue-eyed blond men developed the Health App. But we now have our suspicions.

One of our friends, who we’ll call Sarah, told us about attending her first women-in-tech event, about 10 years ago. At the event, the panelists spoke about the importance of mentoring. Especially as a way to develop and retain women in the tech workforce. Sarah remembers asking the panel, “I agree that mentoring is a powerful career development tool for women. But the men on my team would also benefit from mentoring. Why should we focus on the women?” The moderator gently schooled her saying, “Yes, but the men are the ones getting ahead and the women are being left behind.”

We like the vision of AnitaB.org (organizers of the annual Grace Hopper Celebration). “A future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for whom they build it.”

If we overlay that vision with our desire for inclusive workplaces where all can thrive, we are far from where we need to be. It’s clear we need inclusion efforts to drive change. To focus on people who are missing from the tech workforce. And that’s not the white men, blond or otherwise, already in the room.

One last thing. We love this tweet from Jill Wetzler. “Said it before, I’ll say it again. An environment where WoC thrive is an environment where I can thrive too.”

We couldn’t agree more. How about you?

Update: Since we first published this article, Denise Young Smith apologized for her controversial remarks.

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