There are significant and prevalent issues of sexism and other forms of discrimination in tech that persist. On the whole, things are steadily getting better and better all around, and more women and people of color, ages, abilities and so forth are participating in our industry, designing and making great things and being celebrated for their contributions. But there is still much work to do to combat the systemic problems plaguing the STEM fields. Those seven links are a sample of just the past two months of harassment, discrimination and incidents, epitomized by this terrible example of a sexual assault. (Aside: hat-tip to Ian Gent and his excellent post, The Petrie Multiplier, for aggregating the links. Read his post; it’s a great explanation of how this problem manifests.)
Many efforts are underway to further improve matters, but one very small thing that could help a lot is if more industry people—and leaders, especially—would make a public statement about these issues. A pledge, if you will, committing to taking up their respective responsibility to address systemic issues in our industry, in our communities, and to help fix them where we can. We all have the power, and responsibility, to make things better. We just need to use that power.
Who am I and why am I doing this?
I am by no means an industry leader like many names in our field, but I do have some influence, which I try to wield responsibly and positively. I am a designer, developer, entrepreneur, and open source contributor. I work in technology and design, across various segments and communities. I do public speaking about web, design & development in general, as well as social issues in our industry (and society at large).
I’ve written about these issues a lot: from a Primer on Sexism (in Tech) for a major industry magazine, to comprehensive argument breakdowns (II, III, IV, V, VI), to research pieces and overviews of others’ excellent analyses. I write a lot about inclusivity and events/conferences (II, III, IV), as well as personal betterment. Sometimes I get satirical about these issues; other times I provide very actionable methods to reduce biases.
While I may have spent a decent amount of time on these issues, you don’t need to do anywhere near as much to make a very powerful and positive contribution. A statement is all it takes to make a difference.
What kind of statement?
As I mentioned, I’m also a public speaker (and attend) at many industry events. As such, I’ve declined speaking opportunities unless the conference organizers first put in a solid effort to find a number of capable speakers who are not white men. I also signed the related pledge at The Atlantic, before it got spammed by trolls and taken down. I’m adding my name to this pledge list about not attending events where a known committer of sexual assault is permitted to attend. But these pledges feel scattered and not as comprehensive as they could be. They’re also not easy for others to match, should they want to.
That’s why I’m writing this one statement as a pledge for any and all such things, and I encourage you to make one along the same vein. Feel free to simply copy and paste this pledge to a blog post of your own, and if there’s any paragraph you don’t feel comfortable with, you can of course omit it. For the git-savvy developers, there is a gist you can fork (also a good opportunity for communal link adding).
This statement, this pledge, does not have to be all you do to try and contribute making ours a better industry, but it is a good start.
I Pledge To Be Better
I want our industry to be a safe, welcoming and inclusive place for everyone, regardless of their gender, abilities, skin color, sexual orientation, age, class, neuro-diversity or any other attribute. I acknowledge that this is not currently the case, and will do my best, to the extent that I can afford to dedicate to this, to help make ours a better community and industry.
I value the diversity of perspectives that people with different backgrounds bring to the table. I will call out exclusionary practices, behaviors or cultures and see how, together, we can perhaps reshape them to be inclusive and supportive instead.
I will take some time to read up on, and educate myself about, issues such as sexism in our industry. I acknowledge the onus is on me to be decently informed before speaking out, calling out, or participating in these discussions.
I will examine my own privileges, uncomfortable though it may be, and do my best to recognize them going forward.
I will call out people for behaviors that I deem offensive or unacceptable, but I will do so respectfully and with civility. I will strive to educate, not antagonize.
I acknowledge that I will make mistakes, and that I may offend someone unintentionally with my words or actions. Rather than get defensive when called out on it, I will try my hardest to listen respectfully, and learn more instead.
I will decline opportunities to speak at events that have predominently or exclusively white male line-ups, to offer that opportunity to an equally if not more capable or suitable (non-white/male) person, who may simply not be as widely recognized due to the cyclical system that favors those who have spoken before.
I will not attend events that do not have clear Code of Conduct policies, like an anti-harassment or diversity statement. I will also decline to attend events that feature, or permit to attend, any known offender of sexual assault.
I pledge to be better, and set a positive example for others in our community, industry, and society.