Has this ever happened to you? While in a room full of diverse, yet like-minded, people, you feel a strong sense of:
- Mutual compassion
- A common goal to work towards
Well, that’s what happened during our February event.
Were you not there?
Here’s video playback of Lauren Kinsey presenting “How Men in Tech Can Better Support Women in Tech” at covermymeds.
Without question, the most powerful moment of the night was the discussion that happened after the formal presentation was over.
Since the discussion was so valuable, here is a transcription of the great conversation because it was somewhat hard to hear the audience members.
Discussion (Starts around 40 minutes)
What I want to hear more about is more examples of what makes up this hostile climate? Because you talk about unconscious bias, but everybody has that… so they’re not necessarily bad people.
Things like not recognizing woman’s ideas the way you recognize men’s. Or you walk in a room having big hello and not say anything to women.
Have you ever felt unsafe while walking to your car after work?
If you usually ask that to men and women, women are dramatically more likely to have that experience. So subtle things like that can create a climate difference for woman.
Then micro-aggressions can range from off-color jokes, or hyper-sexualization of woman, and these things can create a [hostile] environment… They do add up over time.
So, just a couple of examples to add to that.
I’ve been to conferences where I’ve been with my team, and they’re all male as it turns out because I’m in security, which turns out to be the least diverse of the technology fields.
The sales people come up, shake hands with every guy in the line, and they skip over me.
The nice part of my brain says, “They’re doing it because they don’t know if I want to shake hands or not, and they don’t want to get in my personal space.”
And the nasty side of my brain says, “That nasty sales dude isn’t getting any money.”
In the office, men have a tendency to take up way more physical space than they should. Women have a tendency not to take any space at all.
When you’re sitting around a conference table, take a look around how people are using their space.
It’s like being in a middle seat on an aircraft, and you got two people that really should have two seats on either side of you. And you’re squashed in.
Women get squashed in physically.
Then when they talk, for the rest of the meeting, that physical presence doesn’t always translate into being heard or understood.
So I just wanted to throw in an actionable suggestion for men in tech.
Here’s one thing that is very gendered behavior…
When you’re coding with someone, taking manual control over the keyboard. With a, “here let me do it.” It turns out it happens much more frequently to women. It also involves a violation of personal space. Not only are you taking their stuff, but violating their personal space.
That’s one thing we recommend to be aware of when you’re working with people. It’s to be respectful of their space and say, “Hey do you mind if I just take this real fast?”
So, first of all, Lauren thanks for doing this talk.
One thing you said that kind of struck a nerve with me.
On the team that I have, which is 60% women, I feel like in the work environment things are pretty good. Some of the things you mentioned we’ll take advantage of.
One thing I noticed is when I go outside of work, or outside of the building, so for a conference or meeting with the sales team. The dynamic changes, and there are more men than women, and maybe there are men that normally I’d be comfortable talking to and saying something different to, but because of the relationship I have with them — and how it’s tough, and how to navigate for women in my group…
And I think hearing you talk about it, I could be smarter about the places I do go to, and maybe the people I choose to meet with outside of the building, because it would make a better environment for my home team.
Awesome presentation, great job! This is awesome!
A couple of things people can proactively do. I want to throw one out there, and then I’d love to hear more suggestions on how can you create a safe space for people that are diverse space to speak up and feel welcome.
One thing that I try to incorporate in meetings, is if you see someone not talking, you’ll notice sometimes that women are less aggressive about speaking up, minorities are the same way.
One way to make people feel safe is to just ask them, “What do you think about this?”
And then people feel welcome to speak.
Another suggestion is on collateral materials for the website, just to show diversity so when people see your site, they instantly subconsciously feel more welcome, and then that creates a better environment.
What are some other things you can proactively do?
A recent example…
At different meetup I went to, not Columbus Web Group. We were going over some basic APIs, and I was sitting in the front row, and had talked to the presenter.
Three times during the presentation the presenter said, “We’re all men here.”
Me: “Uh… Hi?”
I’ve been in IT for 14 years, and unfortunately these situations occur everyday.
We had a situation a few days ago, we had a consultant in, and we had a meeting. One male consultant was with one of our female reports, and she was offering feedback. And he just didn’t listen.
I think it’s important to call them out.
I said, “Look. This is unacceptable behavior and this is not how we work.”
Sometimes you just have to call people out and say, “This is unacceptable.”
Anybody have any more suggestions on how to create an inclusive environment for women in tech? Just the little everyday things.
I was actually wondering, what male allies can do to call out bad behavior. Like, what are some ways to approach that because there are situations where you don’t want to be there… you don’t want to be the person to jump in and end up burning bridges.
So Adam, you just gave that example of speaking up. Were you afraid to speak up? Were there potential ramifications of speaking up?
In my example, it was a little bit easier because it was a contractor working for us, but it’s difficult to say it to your boss. That’s a trial and error type of thing. Sometimes you can get burned by calling people out and saying, “You know, you should try this out,” or give a suggestion.
Right, and talking to somebody in private versus saying it in front of a group so they’re not shamed so that they have an opportunity to grow from what you’re saying and not feel embarrassed and attacked.
So this isn’t really tech specific. It’s really small, but I think it can make a difference.
When you have certain topics that people would assume are gender specific, I think opening up and listening to both sides and both opinions is really helpful.
As a writer in advertising, I was asked by a male to write for No Shave November (and I’ve never had a beard), but I raised the awareness for testicular cancer (which I’ve also never had).
It was an experience to work with a male that was supporting me, knowing that I’m:
- Capable of lying really well, or…
- Being able to listen to the people around you and still get a good experience and good community from both sides
So I guess I come from a different environment.
I was a teacher at a college for a little while for a business class full of guys. A room of 240 people and only two girls.
It’s better to be mindful, you want to make sure people have a chance to speak, but you also want to be mindful that you’re not putting a spotlight on them.
Not be like, “Oh, let’s have a girl speak.”
That’s going to make them feel more isolated because you’re always picking them out, and making them feel different.
You have to walk this fine line between paying attention to people who’s voices often aren’t heard and putting them in the spotlight more for being different.
You can talk to people privately about things they’ve done.
Think about it like confronting somebody that owes you money, they’re going to be embarrassed when you call them out.
You’re in that mindset when you enter that conversation.
We’re talking about emotional intelligence and those values, they definitely are from a United States perspective and IT. I’m curious when giving this presentation to a diverse male audience, how things are translated.
Being aware of people’s cultural filters around gender issues.
Wow. That’s a big topic.
What do you want me to address?
Like, maybe if you’ve gotten certain responses or…
Ah right. This is my first time giving this particular talk. Does anyone here have any insights to talking about gender with people from different cultures?
This doesn’t have to be an international thing, but I feel like in the United States we spend a lot of more time talking about diversity.
I spent last year working at a job applications firm, and they were completely racial and gender blind. They don’t ask about it on the applications. They just don’t want to know at all. So they don’t talk about it at all. When it comes to diversity, at some point it’s important to them, they think it’s better to be blind to it.
It’s hard to figure out how to approach an international audience and you’ve talked to them.
We [in the United States] approach the topic much differently.
I noticed that with African American business groups, there’s some sensitivities around diversity as if it were a zero sum game. It’s important to talk about that.
Diversity is about inclusion. It’s about growing the pie. It’s not about a zero sum game, and I think there’s a difference there.
You talked about unconscious bias. It seems like [education] needs to be done when people are young and in all the schools. The audience would be all grades and there would be a speaker up there, and send letters out to the parents. I seems like if you did that at every school and college, it’d combat unconscious bias and people would automatically react like they should react.
Yeah, that’s great!
I think that would have immense value, because the more we understand about how our minds work, the better it is for diversity and inclusion, but for learning and processing the world, and I think there’s a lot that hasn’t reached popular awareness yet.
That’s a very good point.
One of the reasons I moved from Chicago back to Columbus is because I’m involved with a company called CoolTechGirls. Being involved and running with that is a huge huge advantage, because that teaching allows us to long term view of it.
A lot of what we’ve talked about tonight has been gut check reactions. When someone says this, or when someone does this, I feel this.
But when you’re on a project, you’re practicing good habits, you’re practicing how you can show the proper respect, and I’m proud of being a part of CoolTechGirls.
We talked a lot about hostile climate. There’s a lot of biases with how people evaluate work.
Could you expound upon that?
How do we evaluate men’s and women’s coding abilities differently; how does that matter for promotion?
Because we’re really talking about mobility too.
With women to go up the ladder, and we have to effectively make change when they’re in power.
So can you talk about biases when it comes to promotions, and how we view work?
Did everybody hear recently there was a study that found that women are better coders if people don’t know their gender?
It’s becoming more publicly aware there’s this gender bias happening. The awareness piece is an important part for the people that are doing the evaluating; slowing down their thinking and making sure they’re checking for bias.
Also, standardizing what the bar is and making sure that they’re consistently holding the same bar for everyone, regardless of gender.
Thanks so much for coming, and for such a great conversation!
There’s also been a renewed focus on helping our presenters create conference ready talks. We’ll be creating a guide for our presenters that’ll detail tips and practice advice so they can deliver a conference quality presentation at our Monthly Meetups, without the pressure of a conference.
For Weekend Workshops, topics we’re looking to teach are:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Principle for Mac
- Pre-Processors/Build Tools
- Intermediate HTML/CSS (following up our Intro course)
Want to be an instructor for one of these topics?
Have a topic you’d love to learn?
Let us know about that too!
Or, do you have a different topic you’d want to teach?
Join our Slack and get in touch ASAP!
Columbus Web Group is an organization that is committed to sharing web development and design best practices in a relaxed atmosphere with web professionals and students of any skill level.
Our Monthly Meetups aim to raise the quality of web development and design in the Columbus area through short talks by professionals in the industry. Topics include best practices, methodologies, and approaches for the modern web.
And Weekend Workshops are designed to help educate the community of Columbus on specific topics lead by experts. They are free of charge and are targeted to the audience.