Diversity in Developers

I had an excellent weekend at CocoaConf Chicago meeting interesting people and reconnecting with many as well.

One of the subjects that was brought up in Brittany Tarvin’s Friday Keynote talk was that of women in the technology field. I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany at SecondConf and it was great to see her challenge to encourage women (and girls) to be software engineers brought to CocoaConf. Her talk stirred a lot of discussion, especially in the reverse panel discussion Saturday. The overwhelmingly positive response to her message was inspiring. Nowhere before have I experienced such open-minded discussions and outright admittance that we can all do more for women and other minorities in the tech field.

I talked with a Brittany at SecondConf about the topic of the disadvantages women have when dealing with a white male dominated field. I admitted to her that I have similar experiences being gay and working for companies that have a “brogrammer” type of atmosphere. I left one job because I felt there was no way I could be open about myself there. The job had the typical “brogrammer” atmosphere – mostly if not all male development staff, a good majority right out of college, discussions of a sexual nature, and pressure to conform ever-present. The job became too much when I worked on-site at a client install for nearly a month. Discussions of going to “titty bars” and frequent use of the word fag and gay topped my list of offensive remarks.

I’m usually the type of person who lets things slide, opting for a neutral reaction. Instead of trying to fix everything at the company, I left. My current employer has been fantastic, and I feel no need to have to hide who I am. I am certainly more productive and my coworkers see me as a part of the team. I’m by nature an outgoing person (you can thank my mom the social butterfly) – so being the “shy” one at the more conservative company should have been a flag to myself.

Geeks need to be more empathetic and understand that not everyone thinks the same way. Parents need to encourage their children to do what they want to do and not limit them to things that are pink if they’re girls and blue if they’re boys. When you’re at work, don’t make assumptions that just because you work with someone means that you understand them completely. We all are unique people and we all have beliefs and emotions. I’m not asking for you to accept these emotions and beliefs, but just respect that they are there and try to work together.

I encourage you to get involved in school outreach programs to teach children about technology. Open their minds at a young age and enforce the idea that we all can be what we want to be. Gender/race/sexual orientation bias is not acceptable in this day and age.

Simply put: Quit being a dick.

Please check out Brittany’s work at Tumblr and Twitter. Check out Brittany’s employer Fading Red whom also actively supports her.

4 thoughts on “Diversity in Developers

  1. Great post, Aaron. I’d like to know that company you left to make sure I don’t ever end up there 🙂

    That’s a flip comment but it does lead to another point. Even though that type of environment isn’t necessarily hostile to me – a middle-aged straight white male – that’s not an environment I’d like to work in either.

    And quite simply, as a business, you can’t afford to have such a constricted environment. Tech talent is far too scarce a resource – the more welcoming the workplace, the more candidates you can hope to attract.

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    1. astralbodies

      I *totally* agree with you. I know that my supervisor, who was on the same trip with me, didn’t like the conversations and didn’t participate. That was some solace. Unfortunately a lot of the discussions happened when other subcontractors were working with us (some of them our clients). Definitely a weird scenario but even in the “home office” this brogrammer thing was prevalent for sure.

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  2. I don’t know if this is relevant, but I have found that places I have worked at that where there was a lot of bullying and intolerance were usually places that were also very poorly run. People were not chosen for their positions based upon how they would fit in with the rest of the company. Rather they were chosen because they either fit some formula for what skills the company was looking for, they looked like they would be easy to control by the hiring manager, or they looked like they would just go along with whatever they were told to do and not ask questions or make waves. Oh, or else they were sociopaths that were able to talk a good game but actually had no idea about how to do anything but could fool the non-programmer doing the interview. I have been bullied at two different places and both of them had that in common.

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