What if I knew someone who had a workplace where there were no people of color?
What if when asked about the lack of diversity, the person who ran that workplace said ” There aren’t any people of color who can do these jobs,” Or, they said, “People of color aren’t interested in this work.” Or he said “I tried to find some non-white workers, but the one I found didn’t want to work here.”
Would you believe that person? Or would you think they were racist?
Would you be angry about the opportunities they were denying qualified people who were not of their race–or think the fact they felt they made a best case effort be good enough?
As a person who is trying to make–and support–positive social change and a more diverse meritocracy–I’d hold the person who ran this workplace responsible for the range of the workers and not let excuses get him off the hook. I’d say it was his responsibility to reach out and build the bridges that make it clear people of color are wanted and needed,his responsibility to make the change occur.
And which I don’t think sexism is the same thing as racism, I feel exactly the same way about the need to make sure women are represented. People who don’t see women professionals, who overlook them or look past them, have a gender bias that is very close to the kind of race prejudice that makes it impossible to consider a person of color as a professional or an authority.
Workplace worlds without women are biased and sexist–and the arguments that women are a) missing b) not interested c) not up to the same quality are self-fulfilling prophecies based on the biases of the speaker.
Acknowledging these truths is what makes a post by tech developer and innovator Chris Messina powerful. Not only is Chris one of the cool tech people (he has 22,000 followers on Twitter) , he’s actually a privileged white male tech insider who is willing to say that exclusion of women–and lack of gender balance–in all too many tech conferences is WRONG. Instead of justifying that status quo,
Chris argues that excluding women from tech events is not only unfair to woman, it dampens down innovation. What white men should do, Messina argues, is take their power and share it, even give it away.
“So this power that we white men have? It’s only power if we actually give
it away and spread out our privilege as much as possible. In
whatever form it might take, this potential power means nothing unless
we actually use it — so by working to fix the problem, we’re actually
proving what kind of man we are.”
Nice words, eh? Worth taking to heart? Would you be surprised to hear they were written 4 years ago–and that very little has changed?