The simple binary model of the tech community contribution – labeling members as “active” or “passive”, “leaders” or “followers” – could be fundamentally wrong. I came to this conclusion and it based on my personal experience and watching other people having similar issues.
We make the assumption that all disengaged people are disengaged by choice.
I propose a new assumption: we could engage more people into the community leadership and make the leadership more diverse by making the rules, the recognition model and the environment more inclusive.
A long time ago I read the amazing article explaining how to discover the real company values by asking these three simple questions:
2) Who do we fire?
3) Who do we reward?
When we apply this test to our community and its active part, leadership, we discover the real values of the community. Are we inclusive? Are we diverse? Does the leadership part of the community fully represents the community?
A good friend of mine, a man, supports Women In Tech movement. He got himself in trouble by trying to point to a very simple thing and he probably thinks I didn’t listen too. But I did. He said: “Why do you need to change to be accepted?” I was thinking about it.
It’s very common for Women In Tech community to state “we have to change” as something which is “obvious” and absolutely “must happen”. To be included you have to change. It sounds ridiculous but people agree with the statement. It kills the benefits of the diversity which claims we benefit from people being DIFFERENT and INCLUDED.
Unfortunately, I have to disappoint my friend again, I don’t see any other way for “underrepresented” groups of people to be included – we have to change. It may partly work for neurodiverse people, they do it whole entire life anyway – trying to pretend to fit in. It may partly work for women – they will continue to copy the “men style of leadership”.
But do we all have an ability to change to “comply”? How about skin color, ethnical background, disability, and different life conditions, different variables of the “exclusion equation”?
As always, it is a little bit of the “chicken-egg” type of problem. To understand how to change the rules and processes we need a more diverse crowd and to get a diverse crowd we need to change the rules and processes.
1) What kind of activities and types of the contribution could we bring to engage more “different” people? For example, in the Women In Tech community how do we engage working mums struggling with the time restrictions?
2) How to make community activities more inclusive? Most of the live community events are noisy which aren’t neurodiversity-friendly, don’t have quiet rooms, for example. Most of the live community events don’t have childcare facilities available.
3) What do we count as the contribution and how much is too much? One hour of a contribution could be a big deal for a full-time working mum of three trying to spare her time to stay engaged. One hour of someone’s time spent in a smart way could be more valuable than tonnes of “entertaining” educational videos.
I hope to find some answers to these questions during the next year.