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Discussion on: The Enormous Diversity Problem at AWS re:Invent 2017

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emlison profile image
Michal Lison

I hear what you're saying, the problem is most certainly there.

That said, I'm not sure if I agree that we should be putting "pressure" on it. I can't quite shake the feeling that conferences and companies have this virtual "diversity quota" that they need to fill, or they'll face backlash from social justice warriors and and social media.

Perhaps I'm just lucky, but in my bubble, I don't see this kind of open discrimination - it's mostly caused by unconscious bias, and that, as psychology teaches us, will not be effectively overcome by pressure.

This kind of pressure creates absurd situations and puts both parties in an awkward position. The institution's motivations are driven by goals that are remote to solving diversity, and the person gets treated as some kind of exception, a special case. This makes the divide only bigger.
Giving someone free tickets because of their gender, hiring someone because of their race, or simply listening to someone because of their sexual orientation is self-serving and only bolsters the perception of differences, rather than focusing on what is we have in common.

... but then again, what do I know, I'm a white male after all. Nobody listens to my opinion on this topic, precisely because of my race and gender ;)

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nepeckman profile image
nepeckman

You're missing the point here. People don't ignore your opinions on race and gender to be vindictive or mean. People ignore your opinions because you don't experience systematic discrimination. You said it yourself, you don't see this issue. It's not because this isn't happening, it's because it doesn't affect or target you. You don't personally experience the issue, so why should people listen to your thoughts on how to solve it? And if we want to solve this issue, we absolutely need to put pressure on it. You don't solve problems by ignoring them and hoping they sort themselves out. You solve problems by addressing them. And sometimes progress is incremental and hard to see. We can't really know how many people have been helped by free tickets, or diversity programs. Maybe someone found their passion through that opportunity, or realized they could do something they previously thought was unavailable to them. Representation is really important, and you shouldn't dismiss it so callously.

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emlison profile image
Michal Lison

I find these arguments somewhat misleading.

The topic is of interest to me, and I don't see why would my opinion be dismissed on such grounds as me not experiencing the issue personally. A doctor can mend broken bones without ever having one broken herself.

I'm merely suggesting there's other ways how to solve problems than pressure people into things, and nowhere am I implying that we should wish the problem away.

My argument is that we should treat people as people, not as female people, black people or gay people - I think this approach has, historically speaking, a better track record of making societies equal than putting people into separate boxes has.

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nepeckman profile image
nepeckman

A doctor can mend bones after years of study and training. Being white doesn't disqualify you from having helpful or valid opinions on social issues, but you do need experience first. Marginalized get this experience firsthand, by the fact that they are marginalized. I'm going to be open and say: I don't have this experience. I took a couple of college classes, but that doesn't qualify me to solve social issues. I have opinions, but everyone has opinions and there is no guarantee that my opinions are good on this subject. So maybe you're right. Maybe diversity programs aren't the way to solve this problem. But unless you have some experience in solving social issues, I don't think you're qualified to provide a definitive answer. And I would defer to someone who has experience in these matters, instead of dismissing them as "social justice warriors."

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erinlmoore profile image
Erin Moore

Weird, I can't shake the feeling that some people get hired as developers mostly because they 'look the part', and people who don't look like people's idea of a 'developer' have to work harder to be seen as competent. Guess we're all going to have our feelings.

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ohnonapples profile image
Pine Apple

I agree with the part of "giving someone free tickets". It is great that we strive for diversity. But sometimes the root of the problem is much more deeper. I remember when I was in college, I was one of the 5 female students in the entire class of almost 100. In my case, how could you reach a diversity quota if you don't have enough supply? On the other hand, people make their own choices, we should respect their decisions about what major they choose and what career path they pick. Trying to be diverse just for pure social/political reasons does not seem right to me.

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emlison profile image
Michal Lison

That's right. Before I go see your talk in a conference, I don't want to be wondering if you're there just because you happen to have a different set of genitals than everyone else in the room.

And I do shamefully admit that this has happened to me on few occasions, but not before this whole diversity movement in tech started and companies / event organisers started to be afraid what's gonna happen if they don't fulfil their diversity quota. Shaming people into decisions is something else than having them make a decision on their own.