Writing 03: Diversity, Codes of Conduct

Today, there is a push for greater diversity across society, whether in regards to race, gender, sexuality, or other marginalized groups. This is happening at all levels of society, be it in the media we consume or the industries we work in. So it should come as no surprise that our community is receiving this push as well. Some people question the validity of this push, but it is obvious that a welcoming atmosphere, diversity, and inclusivity in the computing and technology community is important, and it is good that the current lack thereof is starting to be addressed. This is a moral imperative, make no mistake.

I believe the most important steps to achieving a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive community in computing and technology is to simply bring those diverse people into the community. The distance felt by those who feel isolated in the community is mitigated if they can see someone like them in the computer science. As several of my classmates shared this week, when you are a minority trying to make your way into a field, you definitely have been supported by those minorities who came before you. Once you add a few members who have been marginalized into the community, they will passionately fight so that in the future people will not have to overcome the same discrimination they faced.

Another extremely important part to creating an inclusive community in the computing and technology community is to work to eliminate stereotypes. Ideas like girls being less equipped to code due to being “more emotional” or the idea that any minority in a workplace was selected to fill a diversity quota, not due to their merit and ability, are harmful and contribute to the lack of diversity in computer science. It is important to work to eliminate this ignorance, but I am less optimistic about the computer science community being able to successfully tackle this issue. The problem is that these ideas are more deeply ingrained in culture, so you cannot fix this entirely within the community. Not to say there is nothing that can be done, just that this is a broader cultural issue that must be addressed outside the community for permanent change.

Switching gears a bit, there seems to be a bit of a growing idea that speaking in a “PC” manner in the tech community is censorship, that it violates free speech. They look at James Damore as a martyr of some sort. First, I would note that many of the people referring to it as censorship ignore that there were no legal repercussions for Damore (in fact he is in the midst of a lawsuit against Google). James was allowed to say what he wanted, just as Google was allowed to fire him for violating their Code of Conduct. Damore chose to circulate this memo internally at Google. If he had chosen a different avenue to share his same ideas, like a public forum,  I do not think he would have been fired, since these actions would then be taking place outside the workplace. Either way, he did share them on an internal mailing list, and Google rightfully fired him for it.