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Discussion on: The Unbearable Whiteness of Coding

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jcolag profile image
John Colagioia

I'm reminded of JFK's "affirmative action" Executive Order, where he literally phrases it as, "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated [fairly] during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." As people posing as scientists and engineers (we're generally neither, but that's what it says on our degrees and business cards and we should try to live up to that...), we actually know the form that action needs to take---measurement, analysis, and feedback, things we do every day for debugging and optimization---but usually fail to do so out of some weird metaphysical insistence that beliefs and their effects can't be quantified.

At my last job, they made a big show of overhauling the pipeline system, with a stated intent of making the office more inclusive. Instead, the overhauled system used the same people to recruit and interview from the same universities, but put more money into it to get many more white kids. A lot of those kids were great, don't get me wrong, but you don't change who you're hiring without changing your inputs and/or who conducts the interviews.

They thought I was joking, when I suggested reaching out to high schools in the less-wealthy school districts. The other idea they didn't think was serious was to skip interviews altogether, but pay them for a few hours of remote work to fix bugs on an ongoing internal project, so that we could judge their ability and demeanor (via ticket comments, commit messages, and project chat) without risking someone being turned off by their appearance, voice, or potentially even name.

I realize that none of that looks like solutions, beyond "measure and apply feedback," but maybe something in there will spur an improved idea from someone smarter who has the authority to make an impact. Because I agree, this needed to be fixed decades ago...

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sasakiska profile image
Sasakiska

Unfortunately, there are very few real positive actions now, it is rather rare than a rule, that's why I can say from myself that it looks very unusual now and one should appreciate at least the elementary manifestations of these positive actions. But now women at work are still being discriminated against and according to statistics they work less than men and their salaries are lower, you can read this essay and immediately understand what I'm talking about, it is described in great detail. So far, unfortunately, people have not yet understood the value of what they have and discrimination continues to this day, we are waiting for positive action).

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jcolag profile image
John Colagioia

Sorry about the confusion, there. I brought up affirmative action, because the phrase "affirmative action" tells us how this needs to be fixed: We need to take definite steps that we can analyze and verify are actually fair, feeding any "errors" back to improve the process.

People and companies don't take those actions, so things don't improve, and privileged people who don't really care can strike their beards and wonder aloud why women and minorities just aren't showing up.

I didn't want to imply that we solved the problem and, again, apologize for that.