Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Common ground between those who favor and oppose diversity hiring

Those who favor and oppose diversity actually share very similar concerns. This thought occurred to me when I read the end of this interview with Slack developer Kaya Thomas:

The interview ends with the following exchange:

"Brown: As one of the few black women in the industry, have you ever felt tokenized?

Thomas: Yeah. It’s something I struggle with. I think it’s related to imposter syndrome. Did they pick me because of the work I did and my accomplishments, or do they want me to fill in these boxes? You can never know whether or not that’s the case, being a black woman. Most times, there isn't anyone else like me in that space. It can be detrimental to my mental well-being if I always think that I’m a token. I do know that I’ve worked hard. I've earned my spot, but even if I am [a token], at least I’m still here and providing the space for women like me to get here."

None of us want to feel like we don't deserve our success. Kaya struggles with these feelings because she worries, despite the fact that she's earned her place (as is amply apparent from the interview) that she's been picked because she fills in certain boxes.

The mirror image of this is the deep emotional reaction that some well-off Caucasian men feel in reaction to diversity and inclusion. By definition, if we say that white men are overrepresented, it means that we're also saying that some of them don't deserve their place.

It's one thing to be in favor of diversity in the abstract; it's another to support diversity to the detriment of your own career.

This is a difficult subject to grapple with, and none of us can be disinterested.

My own approach is twofold. First, it is important that we seek to eliminate false negative stereotypes and biases. We need to hire based on reality, not inaccurate perceptions. Second, we need to recognize that diversity is valuable in and of itself, not just as a remedy for past injustice. Diverse teams are more innovative and productive; we should seek diversity and inclusion for economic, as well as moral reasons.

It's important to acknowledge that these changes do impact some white men in a negative way. If one group previously held a disproportionate share of high-tech jobs, and society corrects that distortion, the overall benefits to society will be positive, but the local impact on that group would still be negative. We shouldn't expect them to be cheerful about the situation. But we also shouldn't let that stop us from doing what is right.


Anonymous said...

White men are in general not even remotely close to being overrepresented in tech:
Who cares?

Chris said...

It is true that Asians are overrepresented in tech. However, I don't think anyone of any ethnicity claims this is due to institutional racism in favor of Asians.

The people who care are the women and minorities who are dramatically underrepresented. The fact that Asians make up 37% of Google's technical workforce does not explain why Hispanics only make up 3% and Blacks 1% of that same technical workforce.

I will also draw your attention to the very blog post you quote, which concludes with the following paragraph:

"Something that, unfortunately, comes with reporting any stats on gender and ethnicity is that angry white men use it to try to support their thesis that the white male is oppressed. These people can quietly fuck themselves."

Anonymous said...

FYI, when someone points out that you made an unambiguously incorrect factual statement, calling them a racist and swearing at them is not in fact a convincing rebuttal, unless you are trying to demonstrate you are an unserious person not worth engaging with.

Chris said...

I didn't call someone a racist and swear at them; I pointed out that the commenter quoted a blog post that did the same in support of his argument, which suggests that the commenter did not read the entirety of the blog post before referring to it.

I responded to a comment by reading the referred blog post and making an argument based on statistics; this most recent comment ignores the substance of my response and instead accuses me of not being worth engaging with. As far as I can tell, I've responded with reason, and the comment above responds with irascibility.

I've also responded with my true identity, and the commenters on this page hide behind anonymity. I'll let the world decide for itself how to interpret this conversation.