Focusing On The It In Diversity

2 minute read

How many times have you crap like this?

"I wouldn't trust a woman to code. Women in the tech industry are just a distraction to real programmers"
"What would the gays know about technology? They should stick to hairstyling"

Since this is a family-friendly blog, I’m really having to hold myself back from using the ‘BS’ term to describe the above things I’ve heard in the tech industry. I’ll just call them complete and utter nonsense, poppycock, and rubbish, at least until I find a more offensive but publishable world.

Diversity has been on my mind a lot lately. Things have slowly been getting better in many parts of the world, but sometimes its a case of two steps forward, one step back. However, today I’m focusing mostly on the STEM field, especially that of computer science.

From tech companies, university comp.sci departments, and makerspaces, our field has always seemed…blokey. There are a lot of dudes, a lot of casual sexism, and not many people are exactly rolling out the red carpet for diversity.

Which seems insane to me. Some of the best coders, managers, educators, technologists and scientists I know are people of color, women, or LGBT. And it’s not just true today. Our whole industry (and the modern world) was built with the help of these folks who are just a minority in our field today.

Just look at:

  • Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer programs in the 1840s, before programming was even a thing.
  • Alan Turing, who played a major role in shortening World War II with his work on technology, was hounded by the British government for his homosexuality and eventually took his own life.
  • Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three women of color who computed the trajectory for America’s first trip to space, back when NASA didn’t even trust computers.

And that’s just a few. I haven’t even mentioned Magaret Hamilton, Grace Hopper, or Hedy Lamarr!

We’re in a world where the very technologies minorities invented are being used to harass and oppress them. And usually the person sending those racist, homophobic, or misogynist tweets has no idea about the wonderfully diverse history of our technology that led to the invention of the very phone they’re tweeting on.

Computer science has NEVER been a club just for straight white dudes. I’m planning to talk about this a lot more in the coming months and do what I can to make things better. As a good start, I’ve been reading this awesome diversity list from Folks who Code on Github. I recommend you check it out!