Privilege is access to societal and economic benefits based on characteristics you possess. The most well understood forms of privilege are birth privileges like racial, gender, and physical privilege, but there are also selected privileges like religion, education, and career.
In this session, Anjuan teaches how to lend privilege to fellow technologists, including credibility lending (where you provide visibility to someone without privilege), access lending (where you provide access to someone without privilege), and expertise lending (where you provide a voice to someone without privilege). These different types of privilege lending are illustrated through well known examples and an explanation of how they can be applied to the technology industry.
Tamao: Thank you so much for joining. I’m really looking forward to this keynote. I feel like I’ve learned so much already from some of the speakers. And I’m looking forward to hearing from you and doing our Q&A session. So, a reminder to everybody here. If you haven’t joined our Slack channel, that’s where we’ll be monitoring the questions. If you go to devrelcon.com and you register, you should get an email, or yeah, 2020.devrel.net.
Either way, you’ll get a link to Slack. So I was given a version of this talk before on Lending Privilege, I’ll add the slides. So I’m looking forward to kind of an update. We’d already accepted your talk. So especially now, I just feel like it’s great to always be thinking about this, especially with our DevRelCon community, so I’m looking forward to learning from you.
Anjuan: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. And I want to say to everyone who’s watching, whether you’ve been here the entire day or you just kind of dipped in and out, really happy to be sharing with you. You know, one thing I love about working in the technology industry is a need to embrace change. Things are always changing, whether that’s a new language, or a framework, or a new API.
And I really think that that uniquely primes us to be at the forefront for a different kind of change. And that is to change to a more inclusive industry and a more inclusive world. And because I’ve given this talk, and it is an inclusion and diversity talk, I’ve often been ushered kind of into backrooms with the VPs, and the directors, and even the CEO.
And people ask me, “How can we be more inclusive?” Or, “How can we incorporate inclusion into our policies?” And I have to say, those are the wrong questions, because I’m here to tell everyone today that inclusion is coming. So the right question is actually, how can we make sure that we’re prepared for inclusion when it happens?
And it’s already happening. The world is changing in fundamental ways, and companies are at the crossroads of inclusion. So again, inclusion is coming because vulnerable groups have been… just our entire lives, we’ve had to balance protecting ourselves but also pursuing our dreams without fear.
And so this tight rope that people of color, that women, that members of the LGBTQ communities have had to walk, it’s always been there. But we’ve been pushing the companies, we’ve been advocating for our rights, we’ve been demanding to be seen and heard. And we’re learning to use the power of social media to overcome the barriers that often are built against us.
And we’ve seen companies both in some ways push back, but we’ve also seen companies embrace. But it’s really the pushback that I really want to focus on. Because, you know, I’ve heard people tell me, you know, “This inclusion stuff is not good for business,” or, you know, “What’s the value proposition of it?” And there’s often a lot of doubt about why inclusion matters.
But you know what? This doubt, this is not a new problem. In fact, several years ago, there was an actor on a very successful TV show who realized that one of the female actors, one of the actresses, was not being paid as much as the other male actors. And this actor was, like, the star of the show.
And so he decided that this just wasn’t fair. So this actor who was the star of the show and beloved by fans decided to go talk to those studio executives and make the case that this woman should be paid as much as the men who were actors on the show. And it worked.
The actress received pay equal to her male co-stars. Well, the actor was Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, and the actress was Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura. That’s right. Leonard Nimoy was down with equal pay way before it became cool. Nimoy lent Nichols his privilege, his gender privilege as a male actor, but also his influence privilege with the fans.
By lending her privilege, he further her position as an actress by giving her access to equal pay. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, what does this have to do with Developer Relations or working in software?” Well, we’re going through a change where vulnerable groups are using our power to have that change, and we aren’t waiting for people in the corporate office to do it for us.
And so this wave of people empowered, every software company is going to have to be involved in this. And really, this is not just a moral thing, right? Though there is a moral aspect to inclusion, but it’s a innovative thing, it’s a innovation thing. We’re seeing artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies being used to control our lives, from who gets into college, who is either found guilty or not guilty in courts, to who gets pulled over by the police.
And we’re finding that if you don’t have a diverse workforce shaping, and building, and guiding this technology, then we’re going to be really not in a good position to manage the ever-growing power of software. So there is a lot of value in inclusion. And I think that Leonard Nimoy provided a model for how we can address this problem. Leonard Nimoy didn’t wait for Paramount to create an inclusion program, right?
He didn’t issue a need for a salary study, right? He acted. He acted based on what was right. He acted based on what he felt was the right thing to do. And I’m really convinced that there are a lot of Leonard Nimoys watching me right now. And I think that we can deploy that spirit into making a more inclusive and diverse industry.
And I think Nimoy was almost prophetic in his ability to see back then what we know now. And I typically have in my presentation slides about the business case for diversity, and how institutions and academic corporations or people in academia in the corporate world have had studies about inclusion and how they’re good for business, but I mean, just Google.
You have Google available to you. Inclusion and diversity are good for business. Companies that embrace inclusion, especially when it comes to their leadership, they do better than companies that are homogeneous. And so this is really clear. I don’t think that if you spend a few minutes googling that you’re looking for proof.
I think that there’s something else going on, because the proof is clear. Now, I’ve been using the terms diversity and inclusion interchangeably. But they are different. And while diversity and inclusion are linked, they are not the same. So let’s say you’re giving a party, right? So diversity is sending invitations to the people you want to come to your party, right?
So you’re getting some envelopes and some invitations, you’re writing the names of the people you want to come to your party, and then you’re sending them off into the mail, right? So you may have people from college, or people from high school, maybe it’s some people from work, that’s diversity. Inclusion goes further. Inclusion means that you know that some people came a long way to get to your party, well, back when we could travel and go long ways, but some people may have come a long way and so you’re extra nice to them because you know that they had a longer journey to get to your party.
Or you may know that some people don’t drink alcohol, so you make sure that there are non-alcoholic options and beverages available at your party. Inclusion also includes helping people feel a sense of belonging, right? So that means that if you know that a few people at your party loved Taylor Swift, then you play some of her songs over the sound system.
Or if you know that some people, maybe the people who are kind of weird, love country music, well, you have a few country music jams going on at your party. Inclusion requires empathy. Diversity just needs a stamp. And I really believe that we can’t leave it to big companies to make technology inclusive and diverse.
A lot of companies try to run inclusion and diversity programs through HR. But I’m here to tell you HR does not work for you. HR does not work for the people. HR works for the company that pays for it. And often, the corporate needs are at odds with the needs of inclusion and diversity. So I really think it’s you, it’s me, it’s us, it’s we. We have to be involved in doing this.
And I think it’s going to take a grassroots movement of Leonard Nimoys mobilize to make this world inclusive. I’m going to go into defining privilege because I think it’s a very sometimes misapplied term. But before I talk about what privilege is, I really want to go into what privilege is not. Having privilege doesn’t mean that you haven’t worked hard or that you’ve had it easy, right?
It’s like you’re this person running a bike up a hill, right? So you’re working, you’re pedaling hard. You’re trying to get up that hill, it’s hot, maybe you’re getting kind of sweaty. And so you’re really working to get up that hill. But there are other people who are going up that same hill who are working as hard as you, but there are obstacles that they run into that you can’t even see, that you don’t even understand.
And those obstacles are things that you don’t have to worry about because of your privilege. But it also means that you get certain benefits. It could be the benefit of being pulled over by a police officer and not wondering if that’s the last drive that you’re going to ever take. Or the benefit of sitting at a bar with your partner, by a coworker, and wondering because you and your partner may share the same gender, that that coworker may tell people at work something about you that may make the team think of you differently.
Or it may be the benefit of not worrying if your hearing aid goes out in the middle of the day and then people feel that your disability is a danger to the organization, right? Those are things that you don’t have to worry about when you have privilege. And I really do think that when it comes to women and technology, I’m very passionate being in technology, an inclusive industry for women.
You know, women often tell me that, you know, they change clothes multiple times before going to work, right, in the morning when they’re getting ready because they’re just wondering, “Well, will how I dress influence how people look at my credibility?” And that’s a shame because so often when we hire women in tech, we’re hiring to fill two roles, right?
There’s the role that they’re hired for, which is to be a developer, or a tester, or designer, or a business analyst, but then there’s the role of fighting all the stereotypes that we still have about women, right? These horrible stereotypes that have no basis in fact. Why don’t we allow women to just do the job that they’re hired and get rid of that second role?
Why don’t we empower women to bring how awesome they are to our industry and to our companies and let them contribute to the code that we build? And I think that lending privilege can be a very powerful tool to just do that… to do just that. So we’ve gone over what privilege is not, here’s what privilege is. Privilege, simply speaking, is access, is access to benefits based on traits that you possess.
Those benefits could be living in a nice neighborhood with good schools, or it could be getting access to a great college because your grandfather went to that college. Or it could be just getting access to wealth because you’ve been allowed to accumulate wealth in your family for generations. I think that the one problem that people have with understanding privilege is we don’t notice people who have less privilege than we do.
But we really understand people who have more privilege than we do. And I think this can be explained by what I call the airplane effect. Now, most of you have flown on an airplane before. And so let’s say your seat is in Aisle 42. But you see those business class seats up front? Where all the people wear the suits sit, and then while you’re walking to the slums of Row 42, you see them in their big comfortable chairs with all this leg room and you hear the flight attendant offer them very tasty beverages, and, you know, you’re just like, “Wow, I just…” you know, you’re questioning your life decisions because you’re all the way in Row 42.
So you sit down, and you look forward, and you’re like, “Wow, I just don’t have it as good as those people in business class.” But you don’t even realize that there are people behind you who would love to have your seat, right? They’re way in the back of the plane where the bathrooms are cleaned maybe once every 20 flights. And when the snack cart gets to them, like, all the good snacks are taken, right?
That’s how privilege works. We see how good other people have it even we don’t notice the people who would love to have our privilege and our positions. But I think we should change that. Let’s notice our own privilege so that we can all get access to a better seat at the table. And that’s the airplane effect and how I think we need to overcome it to be able to lend our privilege.
Now there are two categories of privilege. The first category is what I call birth privilege. And those are whatever the two people who made you gave you, right? That’s your assigned gender, that’s your level, in general, of physical capability that usually defines your race. That’s what we call… that’s what I call your birth privilege. But then there are what I call your selected privileges.
And those are things that you gain as you grow. And it may be going to a good school. It may be getting a certain job, that might even be what religion that you follow. Those are selected privileges. And the combination of selected privileges and birth privileges can create what I call your portfolio privilege. Now I want everyone to look at this and think about some privilege that you have.
Now some of you may have all these privileges, racial privilege, gender privilege. But I think everyone has at least one. And so identify the ones that you have and then think about, “What would your journey in tech be if you didn’t have your gender privilege?” Or maybe you didn’t have your racial privilege. Or maybe you didn’t have the benefit of going to, like, at MIT or some great engineering school.
Or maybe you couldn’t even walk around. You were confined to a wheelchair. How much harder would your journey through technology be without those privileges? And then realize that there are people you work with every day, some of them you talked to even this morning or earlier today that have to… that they have to journey through technology without those privileges.
And I think you can see that they are navigating their careers at a significant disadvantage. And I think that we can help remove those disadvantages by lending privilege. So I want to illustrate three types of lending privilege with these three women, and they’re all real women.
But for this presentation, let’s just say that it’s B on the left, L in the middle, and M on the right side of the picture. And I’m going to use them as ways to illustrate privilege. So I’ll define the privilege lending type. I’ll give you an example that I hope you can understand, and then help you understand how it can work at your company. One quick thing, I do want to say that when your lending privilege, you shouldn’t announce it, right.
So don’t tell a woman, “Hey, you’re a woman engineer. I’m going to help you with your lack of gender privilege.” Don’t do that, right? Just, you don’t need to mention people’s demographic in order to help them, right? Lending privilege is an attitude and a set of actions. It’s a mindset and not a microphone for how sophisticated you are. All right.
So the first type of privilege lending is what I call credibility lending, right? That’s lending visibility to someone who lacks privilege. And my friends who are LGBTQ often say that, wow, this is a very hetero-normative sector of the industry, technology. And they don’t feel often that they have their potential unlocked because often you don’t see LGBTQ people highlighted in technology.
Well, I think that credibility lending can be a way to fix this. So here’s the example. I’m going to use watched <i>The Colbert Reports</i> a few years ago. And it was a very popular show. And so the host had the DeRay Mckesson, a very well known activist, on the show. And you see that Colbert switched seats with DeRay, right?
DeRay has the seat of the host. And by doing that, he really raised the visibility of DeRay, right? That’s how credibility lending works. So, how can you do it? Well, let’s say B here, she was the person who made that killer feature in your last release, right? It’s the feature that no one thought could be done.
But no one on the executive team even knows her name. Well, if you have access to the executive team, maybe through a weekly meeting, why not invite B along, give her a few slides, maybe give her the whole presentation so that she can present her work to the leadership team, right? Often, people in leadership, they don’t see people like B. In fact, sometimes when B’s working late, people think that she’s part of the cleanup crew that cleans the office because that’s the only time people who look like B show up at the office, right?
But by lending her credibility, by giving her that visibility, you are able to raise her light in the company and let it shine brightly for the top of the company. And if you’re not someone…if you’re an individual contributor who doesn’t have access to the executive team, well, if your company nominates people for awards, well, nominate B, put her name in.
Say that, wow, she’s been doing great work, and then you can also help to lend privilege from that level. All right, access lending is providing entry to people who lack privilege. And as I’ve said, women in tech often experience sexism due to their lack of gender privilege, which, unfortunately, often allows women engineers to doubt their own capabilities despite the tremendous value that women bring to companies.
I think that access lending can be a powerful way to fix this. Here’s an example. So, a couple of years ago, the woman on the left is named Octavia Spencer, she is an Academy Award-level actress. She was cast to be in a movie, but the money being offered was way low, right?
It was just…it was ridiculously low. Well, the woman on the right is named Jessica Chastain, and she’s also a very well-awarded actress, and they had worked together in a previous movie, right? Because of that relationship, Jessica told Octavia, “You know what? I’m going to make sure that you’re getting paid what I’m getting paid.” So Jessica went behind closed doors with the studio executives for that movie, and she negotiated on Octavia’s behalf, and she won.
She allowed Octavia to get the same payment that she receives. And that’s how access lending works. You bring people into rooms that are normally closed to them to make sure that they are treated as you expect to be treated. So how can this work at your company where, let’s say this is L, and she spent the last few weeks helping your company convert to a container strategy, right?
Well, why not send her to that Docker Conference that you go to every year, right? And can you even spell Kubernetes? So why not let her go to that conference and lend all the great things that she adds to the conference? Because you give L the ability to feel like she belongs in tech, but I can promise you that she will enrich that technology conference by diversifying the people and the perspectives that go to it.
And again, if you’re not someone in your company who decides who goes to conferences, well, why not, if you go a lot, nominate someone who lacks your privilege to go in your place? Now, expertise lending is providing a voice to people who lack privilege. Now, as a black person, I don’t see a lot of people like me in tech, very rarely do I see myself even at conferences.
And so that can leave black technologists feeling that we don’t really have a place in technology, and we often doubt our ability to even become leaders. And I think that expertise lending can help to fix this. So here’s an example. A few years ago at a popular conference called South by Southwest. First Lady, former First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave a talk.
And she said that if you have a voice at the table, ask. Is there diversity around the table? Are their voices and opinions that don’t sound like yours? And I think that we need to do more than just simply talk about the missing voices, we need to add them to the conversation. So how can you lead expertise?
Well, here’s M, and she’s the person who knows the entire code base, she’s always the person who welcomes new joiners, and shows them where the bathrooms are and where all the skeletons are hidden in the repositories. She’s like a one-person on-boarding team, and she’s been running the company for a long time, but she’s never led a project. Well, the next time you have the opportunity to give that plum project, the one that you know when it comes time to review performance will shine bright like a diamond, why don’t you give M the chance to lead that project?
And by doing so, you will solidify her belief in herself and the sense that she belongs in technology. So those are three examples of lending privilege. And I hope you see that it’s really quite easy. And I want to reinforce a couple of things. One, it’s not a silver bullet, right? This is something that you have to do intentionally.
And it’s something that like any new thing, you might not be good at the first time you try it but if you buy into it, if you lean into it I can promise you, you’ll get results. But the second thing is that lending privilege does not mean that you lose anything. You just share benefits with other people that you just normally share with people who don’t, who often look like you, right?
So you’re basically helping to create a meritocracy in technology where we welcome talent no matter how its packaged. And I’m sure many of you listening to this you hope to leave a mark in software. You want to have your name on commence. You want to have maybe even open source software project, you want to have your name on that so you’re looking to find some way to make your mark on technology.
But whatever software you’re working on one day is going to be obsolete. One day your software will have zero users. And I think that the impact we can have on the technology industry by making it more inclusive will long outlast whatever code we’re working on today. I know people who lend me their privilege when I started my career over 20 years ago.
And I remember that to this day, even though the software we worked on, I’m sure hasn’t been used in over a decade. So I think that if you want to truly leave a legacy in software, if you really want to have an impact, then I think lending privilege can be a very powerful way to do that. So you may be thinking that, “You know what? I’ve heard what you have to say. I just don’t really want to do this. I mean, I’m a developer relations. I just want to do my job. And you know, I’m not racist. I’m not sexist. I’m not homophobic. I’m not ableist. I don’t really think that this is anything I need to work on.”
You know, I can get that sentiment but let’s say you wake up one morning and you realize that all the houses in your neighborhood have burned down, and some are even still on fire. Would you walk out of your house which has not been touched by the fire and say, “Well, I’m not going to set any more fires,” right? That’s kind of like how what you come across as when you say, “I’m not racist, I’m not going to add to the fires.”
But I think you will be a good neighbor. You would do more, you would try to help the people who put out the fires, you will maybe try to give some water to the people who are on the streets because their house got burned out. I would hope you would give assistance to those people. And I think that that’s what I’m looking for. If you really want to be involved in making the industry more inclusive, you really want to lend that ear, lend a hand and really be helpful I encourage everyone watching this to lend your privilege.
Tamao: Thank you so much. That’s really, really helpful. So now we’ll start some Q&A. This bit’s okay. I’ll remove your slides, perfect. So yes, a reminder to people, please post we’ve seen a couple of things in Slack. So much here, so much richness.
I really appreciate it. I wanted to start with you ended with some actions. But I think there’s also another layer where we can argue. So first of all, yes, hopefully, people who read the articles about the importance of diversity with innovation that hopefully, that’s a starting point.
If people don’t have that starting point, I mean, there’s just so many business articles out there, right? That just having diverse perspectives helps you to be more empathetic toward your customers, helps you be more innovative. So, let’s say that’s a starting point. And then another starting point, I think, maybe specific to DevRel community is that the culture that you have within your company will always reflect how you run your communities and how you show up, and how your company’s brand, and how your company shows that to the communities.
There’s hopefully a starting point that there’s no way that you could have one and not have it influence the other. So if you have a company that isn’t diversity inclusive, that doesn’t have these strong values, the way it reflects out and reverberates out how you engage with your customers, how you speak with them, how you chat with them on slack or wherever right?
It’s going to end up impacting in, we would say, a negative way. So, so I’m curious if we could think about the actions in that way. Like, I’ve had some conversations where, you know, I’m still learning and growing myself and I thought it’s really helpful that there have been some examples where you see, “Oh, leadership or particular people in the company do not demonstrate certain core values or, you know, we’re worried that it might be heading in a particular direction.”
And so the…some of the first reactions are, “We have to write a value statement,” or “We need a committee on this and that right,” or “We need the diversity committee in all that.” It’s like, okay but if you as a leader or as you as various individual employees in your daily behaviors you’re not demonstrating it what does it matter that you put it on paper, right?
In fact, you’re kind of creating rules around something because you’re not actually putting it into action, right? And so I was just curious. I don’t know. If you say a lot of people ask you, right? That you feel like they ask you the wrong question. How do we make it more diverse in a company or often here we are an event, right? Like, “Oh, we don’t get enough speakers that are diverse.”
And what are your thoughts around that in terms of, you know, it’s hard? And what you talked about today, we’ve talked about change is hard. What are baby steps that people can take? Because we can acknowledge? Yeah, it’s hard to represent the values that you want, like you have to make the change and you can’t do it overnight. Like, on top of what you shared here, like, how are maybe some first steps that you can take, or you’ve heard people take toward this direction?
Anjuan: You know, I think Gandhi said it well, you should be the change that you want to see. And I love what you said about culture. You’re exactly right, that the culture inside your company is going to flow out into the view of the people who you want to buy your products and services.
Culture, when people talk about culture, they’ll talk about, “We need to put on our website our values and our culture.” And we like to say that, but culture is not communicated, culture is imitated. And so if you really want to represent the people who you want to buy your goods and services, then you will create your company in a way that reflects the perspectives and the points of view of those people.
And there’s just lots of examples of how companies who don’t do that often find a way…all right, they find it difficult to really understand, “What are the use cases of our customers?” and aligning their product with those needs. I think that something that companies can do is if you are going to create some kind of diversity statement, or say, “This is what we feel about it,” you cannot do that behind closed doors with the executive team.
You have to involve the company in those conversations because it’s going to be the people who are individual contributors, and maybe the people who are managers. But those are the people that are going to be interviewing the people that you hope to come into your company and help it be more inclusive. Those are the people who are going to have to work alongside these people. And so, if they’re not involved in that, then they’re not going to buy into it.
And so you really have to make sure that the people in your company are involved in defining what it means for you. And I think that you will have robust conversations, and there may be debates. But I think that those are healthy debates for any company to have. I think that after doing that, I’m really tactical. And I think that if you want to make your company more inclusive, then you really have to remove as much of the bias that we have when it comes to selection.
So when you’re hiring, you have to diversify your hiring pool. If your company is homogeneous or overwhelmingly not diverse, that’s probably because you’re getting talent from the same places and that you’re not reaching out to more diverse sources. And, you know, I often…when I suggest that, people say, “Well, we’re diversifying our hiring sources or our talent pools, but we’re not going to lower the bar.”
And that is so shocking because why do you equate diversity with lower quality, right? And so I give the short example of, let’s say you were going to a bar because you’re single, you’re trying to date someone, and you go into the same bar night after night, but you’re not happy with the people who you meet there. Well, why not go to a different bar, right? That’s not lowering the bar, that’s increasing the capability or the possibility that you’ll find the right match.
And that’s what you do when you diversify your talent pool. You’re going to other bars to increase the chance that you’ll find the people that match what you’re looking for.
Tamao: Yeah. Absolutely. Or go to different Meetup groups.
Anjuan: Exactly, yeah.
Tamao: One of my friends who was actively dating, I was like, “It doesn’t seem like this particular channel you’re using is working. Try something else.”
Tamao: Yeah. So on that note, I was thinking about… This is just my personal perspective. But you mentioned a really good thing about, like, “Well, why…” you know, “Why should we change?” And I liked your example of, you know, at a party, inclusion might be you play different types of music, or you have non-alcoholic drinks and all that stuff, a nice light-hearted example.
And a lot of times, when people create a lot of these reasons for not doing that, it’s, one, because change is hard. And I do…and again, my personal perspective is we do often create a lot of logical justification for a core that just might be, “I don’t want to change,” right? “Change is really hard. I don’t want to change.”
And we’ll have our long list of reasons why that, you know, doesn’t work, or we don’t have the energy to include all these “new people,” right? Like, “Oh, it’s different.” But really the core might just be, like, “Yeah, change is hard.” And maybe, like, we can have a, you know, a three-month daily small little thing if we understand the value of inclusion. And, like, “I don’t like these songs,” and all that.
“I want to hear these other ones.” But we understand that the end purpose is that we’ll actually be able to come out of this in a better way and each individual, and we totally understand that your gut reaction if you just like, “I don’t have the energy and the resources to have to do something different from what I’ve understood until today,” right?
Anjuan: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I often feel that people don’t know that, often, they’re laboring under default settings, right? And that default setting is usually a certain gender and a certain race. And it’s almost like when you buy a phone, you take it out of the box, right, and some of the box is really nice, but there are default settings on the phone that are based on a variety of reasons that you may not even agree with.
So what do you do? You change the default settings, you tailor the phone to how you want it to work. And you get a better phone experience, usually, from that activity. I try to say the same thing to companies that, you know, you’re laboring under default expectations of what’s “normal,” right? Because if the status quo is okay, then you don’t need to change. And you don’t see some of the challenges with the status quo.
And if you make your company inclusive, where everyone feels welcome, and there are certain action and changes that need to make that true, but everyone, hopefully, will feel that this is a place where I can bring my true self to work. I can be who I am. And so many people have to hide who we are based on the fact that the company is a certain way.
And I fully believe that if people can be their true selves, you will get their best work. And so I really try to help companies see this is the benefit. And these default settings that you’re used to maybe make you comfortable, but there are probably people in your company are very uncomfortable. And why limit their ability to do work for you and to service their customers and developers by not changing so that they can be truly who they are when they’re doing work for you?
Tamao: Yeah. I don’t want to put you on the spot with a different topic. But have you talked about, I assume, maybe universal design? Is that the term where, you know, they talk about how, “Oh, people only thought it was a marginal group of people that needed a ramp on the sidewalk.” And then it turns out once we did it because we thought it was only for people with wheelchairs, there was, like, a whole array of people who were benefiting from the ramp on the sidewalk, right?
Do you bring that into your topics at all? Or do you think about it when people are like, “Well, it’s such a…it’s a small group, we don’t…you know, we can’t make huge changes just for them,” right? Like, but how do you argue for how everybody will benefit?
Anjuan: Yeah. All the time. I’ve been really keen because my inclusion work is inter-sectional. Neurodiversity, right? That means that people’s brains are wired differently, right? And so let’s say someone has maybe their ADHD, right? And working with people in my teams who report to me, who…and often it’s not something that…it’s often something that’s very sensitive that they share with me in very private discussions like one-on-ones when we work for a while, and they share this with me.
And so there are certain things that as a manager you can do, right? One, if you’re co-located, try to not have their desk near an area that has a lot of traffic, right? Because often, that’s distracting. Or invest in giving them high-quality headphones so that when they’re working, they’re able to, you know, focus. And there are other things that you can do to make sure that neurodiverse people feel welcome and able to bring not only themselves but the benefits of that, right?
People who have ADHD often are very energetic when they’re tackling a new problem, right? And so there are all these benefits. Well, guess what? When you do that, when you design your office and where people sit based on what makes them concentrate easier, when you let everyone wear headphones, right, not just a person who has their brain wired in a certain way, everyone benefits from that, right?
And so when you reach out and modify your workspace, and not only physically but the culture, you will find that everyone really benefits from that. And most people are surprised by this. But I find that when you center your efforts on the group of people who are usually most harmed by your culture, and most companies don’t want to admit that we harm people by our culture, but if you center your efforts on helping them, you’ll see everyone benefits from those efforts.
Tamao: Yeah. And my personal perspective is I felt that often people who are bookmarked as having privilege are often actually not really happy with a lot of the assumptions that come with that too. So it’s not as though, “Oh, if you have privilege, then you’re perfect and everything’s good about you,” right? There’s actually a lot of people in open discussions about, “Well, I didn’t ask for this. And there’s a lot of assumptions that come with that, too, that I don’t identify with it, that don’t work for me.”
So I think that, you know, hopefully, we can continue the conversation and understand the flow in many directions. Yes. Well, thank you so much for this talk, and also thank you so much for the work that you do. As we’ve discussed, we might bring this back at the close of DevRelCon Earth because there’s still so much more. And I will be posting my questions as well.
I have many, many more. And actually, I was going to add, thank you for bringing up AI as well. It’s a terrifying place where there is bias. It’s a whole topic in itself.
Tamao: But thank you so much.
Anjuan: Thank you.
Tamao: I will say adieu to you and let you go.
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In this talk from DevRelCon Earth 2020, Sarah Novotny discussed the role of empathy within your community activities.