The Other Side of Diversity: Being a minority in tech
In the past few weeks, we’ve crowdsourced ideas for the Gender Equality in Tech blog from our readers. Readers’ ideas for blog entries have included, for instance, the post that we did on the myth of meritocracy. Another reader idea was to cover the experiences of minority women in tech. Today, we’re honoring this request by covering Erica Joy’s powerful post about being a black woman in tech.
I think it’s useful here to also mention the theory of intersectionality. Intersectionality is the idea that it’s impossible to view any one social group (such as women, for instance) as uniform, because the different people making up that group are actually very different, based on their other social identities. For instance, we’ve been talking a lot about women in tech. But what might at first seem like a uniform group is actually a group of very different people. Each person in that group has different types of social privileges or disadvantages, based on their race, age, class, level of function, sexual orientation, and other identities. Invisible components of one’s identity and experience, like learning disabilities, and mental health, also intersect to create an individual’s unique experience and social position.
Diversity is the umbrella under which everything that makes a person unique falls under, and it’s remarkably complex. In addition to talking about things that are actual grounds for discrimination, there are even things like personality type, introvert or extrovert, that make all humans different. In trying to create inclusive spaces, the goal is to create places where people can be their authentic selves, and enjoy equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities. That’s the goal.
Erica Joy’s story is a story of someone who has suffered enormously as a minority woman in tech, because inclusion and acceptance was and is not the norm. I urge you to read her story.
In it, she talks about how she’s experienced harassment from coworkers, including from a coworker who would consistently make racist comments like “Did you get that bruise from your boyfriend beating you?” or “I bet your parents abused you as a child.”
The unacceptable way that her company dealt with this harassment, when she told her manager, was to transfer to her to another office, without even speaking to HR, conducting relevant interviews, or disciplining the other employee. One of the reasons why she agreed to this, which appears to be blatant mismanagement of harassment at work, was because she “didn’t want to be that stereotype - the black woman with a chip on her shoulder. I didn’t want to make the rest of my team uncomfortable.”
As if the blatant racism and harassment weren’t bad enough, Erica also feels she’s gotten passed over for relevant jobs.
But the worst part of Erica’s story is the constant loneliness that she’s felt, the way she feels like she sticks out, the way she “has to walk a tightrope to avoid reinforcing stereotypes while still being heard.” She also has to “navigate the expectation of stereotypical behavior and disappointment when it doesn’t happen (e.g. me not being the “sassy black woman”).” This has had clear ramifications on her overall health and wellbeing.
She writes in the end, “I don’t need to change to fit within my industry. My industry needs to change to make everyone feel included and accepted.” By telling her story, Erica is helping the industry do better, one truth at a time. You can follow Erica Joy on Medium.
Thank you to our reader Galina Shubina for her suggestion to cover this topic!
Follow the GETBlog here.