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Why Diversity in Tech Matters

jameesy profile image Jamees Bedford ・3 min read

Diversity is a topic that I am putting a lot of energy into at the minute.

If diversity isn’t something that is on your radar, then let me explain why it should and can be something that everyone pays more attention to.

Earlier, I posted on LinkedIn:

People in the software industry SHOULD be doing more to support those who are learning to code from "un-traditional" backgrounds. Myself included. We need diversity and I want to let everyone who is learning to code who has doubts because they don't fit the traditional "software engineer" mould that this is the case.

Not particularly controversial - why would you not want to support those who need it most? It didn’t take long for me to get the reply I was expecting:

No we shouldn't. I never learned how to code from people stopping what they do to help me. If you have that expectation, join politics. Bridges don't stay up by PR. At the end of the day, you have access to all the tools you need to learn. It's nobody's job but your own to ensure your own success in life. If you’re getting into something like Software and/or engineering as a whole, you should expect it to be hard, or you are in the wrong industry. We literally solve problems.

Just for arguments sake, this reply was left by a white male with a Computer Science degree.

I agree - it is no one’s job to ensure your own success in life. But wanting the journey to be hard for others because it was hard for you is a horrible mindset. A mindset I don’t understand.

Imagine: You are a single mum, struggling to make ends meet, learning code in your few hours of free time to try and make life just that little bit easier. You then read something like that. “You should expect it to be hard, or you are in the wrong industry”.

I still to this day do not understand why software is so fucking full of gatekeepers. It’s an industry, not a secret club. If it is hard to get into tech for someone who is so full of privilege it is leaking out onto other peoples social accounts, then how hard is the journey going to be for someone who is in a much worse situation in life. Someone who doesn’t have the time, the right bias or the money to get a degree but wants to learn software.

It doesn’t get any easier when you apply for jobs either. I have been fortunate enough to play a part in making code tests non-compulsory at Monzo. Our feedback showed that they were a struggle for those who are neurodiverse. They cause unnecessary anxiety. They are often favoured towards those who have a traditional degree in Computer Science, which is (sometimes) just not relevant for a modern day development job. There are far better ways, and more inclusive ways, of determining whether someone is up for the job or not.

I think back to when I was learning code, in my mid 20’s with no degree, suffering with anxiety. It was excruciatingly hard, and I was in a comfortable place where I could afford to spend a few hours a day learning. Just someone from the industry reaching out and saying “You can do this” would have meant the world to me, and it is something that we can all actively do. Why would you want people to go through the same struggle you went through when the world of difference can be made just by offering support, motivation and advice.

We need diverse software teams. Different peoples opinions help build more empathetic and therefore better software. Its just a shame that the industry is still riddled with old-hat techniques and views that don’t encourage this.

My mission in life right now is to use my privilege to help software become more diverse and to vouch for those who are under-represented and not following the traditional path into tech, and I think it is something we can all do better.

<3

Discussion (9)

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nbageek profile image
Patrick Minton • Edited

But wanting the journey to be hard for others because it was hard for you

I don't think this is their reasoning. I think these types of comments are written by privileged folks who need/want to believe that their job is more difficult than it is, because to believe otherwise would require acknowledging their privilege, and thus entertaining the possibility that said privilege might possibly be the result of more than just their own efforts.

Further, I think there's a pretense by many in the industry that it requires some innate talent or inner nature, that "problem solving" is a character trait and not a learned skill (in reality, in many industries, not just engineering, "problem solving" is basically just a way of describing the phenomenon that experience makes one better at one's profession [duh]).

Lest anyone feel that I might be speaking from the"outside in" out of bitterness/jealousy, let me just state for the record that I am a privileged white male that's worked for 20+ years in the industry, including at two of the "big four".

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joshuaamaju profile image
Joshua

Your argument seems to be addressing how hard it is being a software dev or becoming one. But that's different from advocating for making tech a mix of cultures. I fail to see any argument to support the title of your post.

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yusufcodes profile image
yusufcodes

I love this and completely agree with everything mentioned. I’m shocked that there are people in the industry with opinions like the one you shared – I just hope I can avoid anyone who thinks like this!

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helleworld_ profile image
Desiré 👩‍🎓👩‍🏫

Totally agree, James.

Since I don't have any title hanging and getting rusty in my walls, I received too much hate and horrible comments towards me and my skills. One time I had this woman telling me on Twitter that "I probably was the one bringing the coffee to the engineer's team, not coding with'em".

That lady made me understand that this industry if full of gatekeepers, and that very often it's not a white male with a computer degree, sometimes we'll find too a "white lady" with the same degree, with the same mindset: "I struggled for years, now it's your turn and if you can't afford it go home".

That's why I'm trying to become the difference, telling everyone to just do it! Coding it's not a superpower, even tho it can make you feel supercool. Congrats again for the post, felt every line on it.

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joshuaamaju profile image
Joshua

I see your point, but let me state a personal experience of mine. I was once a member of a Google Developer community while in school. We got a lot of ladies come around, some saying they wanted to learn how to code. But none of them ever did, not because anybody tried to stop them. It seemed like they said one thing but did something else. They mostly just came around for the food and t-shirts that we got. But I've also seen female programmers.

But imagine i never got to meet female programmers. I'd come off with the idea that girls don't naturally like to coding, and all the usual reasons people give that we find offensive. Although I'll admit that some are intentional. But we jump to conclusions too often without first considering the situation from the other person point of view or experience.

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helleworld_ profile image
Desiré 👩‍🎓👩‍🏫 • Edited

I've seen men who hate design. Does that mean that men don't naturally like design? Because I've met "male designers"...

Your point is honestly pointless.

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joshuaamaju profile image
Joshua

I see you fail to understand the point I was making, I wasn't making any claim as to whatever might be the reasons for the discrepancies we see in tech. I'm just saying we should try to understand why some people might think in a certain way on these issues. And to be honest, this "Does that mean that men don't naturally like design? Because I've met "male designers"" does not make sense, I think you should have checked it before posting.

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yusufcodes profile image
yusufcodes

Interesting perspective on this