Aug 10, 2017 • 3 min read

How to be an Ally

I’m not going to read the Google memo. Like many other women in tech have said, it’s just reading what we experience on the daily. The “oh you code”’s, the very conscious bias, the “how can you do conferences? Don’t you have children?” judgey question, the fact that we have to support each other in meetings or meet-ups with Shine Theory, taking credit for their work, etc the list goes on—it’s all very tiring and exhausting.

One of the parts that’s really hard is watching people post something about Google memo guy or some of the other hundreds of horrible things that happen to women, POCs (people of color), and immigrants in tech, yet, in their lives away from likable FB post, aren’t standing up for them, let alone listening to what they have to say.

It’s all exhausting, but I have good news! If you’d like to be an active ally for the the underrepresented or discriminated, here are eight simple suggestions (okay here goes!):

1) Jokes about women, POCs, ethnicities, generalizations, and immigration—stop—they’re not funny and people have enough to deal with. Hear other people make them even when the joke doesn’t apply to you? Call them the bleep out. Speaking as a woman, POC, and immigrant, we could use your help if you’re in the position to stand up for us. The “my other __ friends think its funny” is a pretty crappy way to say that you think of all members in the same group in the same way. Those are generalizations, assumptions, and ignoring the individuality of the people around you.

2) Lesson #1 in Design and Development (and Inclusion): Realize that just because you don’t experience something, doesn’t mean it isn’t someone else’s experience. Validate that person’s experience with listening to them. That’s it. So you’ve never heard that friend or coworker say that awful thing to you? Believe someone else when they said it’s been said to them. That’s enough. That’s what empathy can be. Hashtag buzzword.

3) Listen to how you interact with women, POCs and minorities in meetings, in group settings. Ask yourself if you’re waiting to let them finish a sentence or thought in a group setting. Are you cutting them off? Are you walking into that group setting with assumptions on how they’re going to be? Are you noticing that members of these underrepresented groups are shining the light on each other, or trying to speak up for each other? If so, help them.

4) If someone in any of the categories listed, says “hey, that thing you said was hurtful”, actually take a minute to try to understand why it was, even if you didn’t think it was. If its hurtful to someone you know or care about, that’s enough. Take them at their word and use it to learn something. Your ego will be better for it.

5) Part two of #4, try to believe that those who are standing up to you when you’d being a butthead, are courageous for taking that step, and not playing victims. Try not to be defensive, but use it as an opportunity to learn something.

6) If they (whoever they are) ask for a Code of Conduct, and you’re in the position to create, co-write, co-sign, or request one, consider doing it over worrying about making others mad. And then stick to it. People feeling safe is way better that a few people feeling bad that they can’t stay discriminatory things.

7) If you’re in the position to bring someone up, especially someone who has been ignored even with the slightest discrimination, speak up for them, not at them or over them, and call out those ignoring them (respectfully, if you can).

8) Ask people what pronoun they use (via this tweet from Angela Dumlao), not what they prefer, and then try not to say “guys”. Y’all works. They works. Everybody/one works.

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tags: diversity  inclusion  ally  talks  culture