As part of a series of blogs I intend to write about Diversity and Inclusion in Information Technology, I wanted to start off by sharing my experiences.
I’ve been in Information Technology since the age of 13. In almost every employer I have worked for, I have had negative experiences for who I am which led me to often seek self-employment. So, what kind of experiences exactly?
- Name calling and insults as a response to a comment or idea.
- Being excluded from social events, meetings, or training opportunities based on prejudicial thinking.
- Having subordinates make degrading statements about my identity and have no recourse because the company “sees no issue”.
- Being passed for promotions because I was unqualified with no feedback versus other candidates, or “it’d be a distraction”.
- Having managers bring up my sexuality or parts of my body as a joke or reason to discredit work or experiences.
- Non-consensual body contact and unwanted advances.
- Have complaints rejected by HR or business owners because I need to “man up” or “grow some balls”.
As you can imagine, being on the receiving end of this kind of behavior can be extremely demotivating and affect productivity. There were times it felt overwhelming and I wanted to leave the industry and in at least one case, was a significant contributor to thoughts of suicide.
One job I left due to this type of abuse was thankfully under anti-discrimination laws and I pursued legal action against them. I won that case after their attorney sent me an email intended for my employer which ironically contained degrading statements about me.
When I began working for an employer who allowed me to be more open about my identity it allowed me to thrive, I couldn’t help but notice that PoC, women, and those who fit outside the norms were still having problems of varying degrees. So I began to advocate for and with them, along with lobbying my employer about improving the culture and implementing policies that promote diversity and inclusion.
I’ve seen in my own experience that diversity is what can encourage a variety of viewpoints in your business, but inclusion of those viewpoints without prejudice is what has lead the latest technological advancements and growth that we never thought was possible. I’d like to think that there is enough evidence out there that this would be a common business strategy, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
As my career progresses, I am becoming more mindful of who I work for, and where they stand. If the company or the culture is not compatible with what I seek in terms of diversity and inclusion, I will move on.
So what can you do? If you don’t already, take an opportunity to listen to your colleagues from a variety of backgrounds and understand their experiences. Whether you are the subject of some of this behavior, or looking to champion change where you work. Be an advocate for those who need it. Always consider the experiences of others, because even if you’ve been subject to the same types of behavior, there may have been different outcomes or situations for others which are important to recognize.
Improving our industry’s culture and how our employers embrace D&I is everyone’s responsibility. So, how will you contribute?