molly.com

Saturday 10 July 2004

gender roles? let’s talk race.

The “where are the women” adventure continues as Doug Bowman revisits the thread he originated last year. No matter what your persepective is on this issue, the mere fact that its got legs of its own proves that it’s something that people want to address.

So if we’re outing gender as a specific issue in our field, we have to also out a fact that bothers me personally far more than the gender issue, and that’s the issue of race integration in the web design and development field.

Stepping aside from the broader multinational aspects for a moment let’s ask this question: Where are the blacks? the Hispanics? The Native American Indians? I’m thinking over my entire career in IT and I can confidently say I’ve worked with or known exactly four black people in a 16 year career (three of them women, interestingly enough). Fewer Hispanics than that, even though where I live has a significant Hispanic population. One Native American, ditto on the significant population here in the desert.

I posted to Doug’s conversation a synopsis of my recent thinking on the gender issues, citing history, cultural expectations, and education as major factors. I believe the same concerns apply when we think about race integration, at least here in the U.S.

By the way, I don’t mean to leave out any specific race. If you feel your race is under-represented in our field, by all means say so.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 06:00 | Comments (39)

Comments (39)

  1. I wager that someone working in Event Management or anything remoted connected to the arts (editing, proofreading, managing musuems) would not have had more than 5 Indian (East-Indian if you will) Collegues over their entire career.
    Someone in the software industry, on the other hand might find every fifth colleague (at least) to be Indian.

    Point being, there are preferences and social pressures (as in pressure exerted by the ethnic community) at work here, I guess.

  2. I dunno… The ethnic composition of the creative team at my division of my old company was:

    7 White
    5 Black
    1 Asian
    1 Middle Eastern

  3. If I didn’t have a picture on my site no one would know and I think the same probably applies for others. With gender it’s easier to make assumptions based on tone of writing and pronoun usage but with race it’s always possible that it is the person you would never expect. I worked with a guy for 2 semesters via email and phone conferences and I think he assumed I was over 30 and caucasian. He could just barely hide his surprise when he came by to deliver the final documentation. (of course I also had to hide surprise because he was thin and going gray and I imagined a younger, rounder person) But there was a possibilty that we could have ended the professional contact and neither of us would have a clue as to physical appearance or race of the other, because it never came up.

  4. *Posted to the right entry this time*

    Here’s one :-)!

    Thanks for being a white woman (assuming from the photo at least) with the chutzpah to bring this issue to the forefront.

    Blacks and Latinos are under represented in technology period compared to their numbers in the U.S. population. Black women and Latinas even more so. Even in a room full of minorities in technology, I would still be an anomaly: a black woman web developer-designer.

    Now, much of that has to do with economics and exposure. The “knowledge infrastructure,” if you will, just doesn’t yet exist for most blacks and Latinos.

    As much, though, has to do with why women aren’t more visible.

    1. We (on the whole) haven’t learned the self-promotional techniques that (mostly white) men have.

    2. Most people develop social-professional networks with people who look like them. That explains why the CSS Gurus Club often seems like a (White) Boys’ Club, and why most of my freelance work comes from black-owned companies.

    3. People of color and women are often seen as less credible and less capable.

    But the online world is a slightly different story. The anonymous nature of the Internet plays a huge part in this seeming invisibility.

    As Sunshine said: if I didn’t give cues to my race, I doubt most people would know — even with that small (though digitally-altered) photo on the home page :-).

    Many people of color consciously downplay their race/ethnicity online — those with ethnically-neutral names at least — for fear of not being taken seriously, or worse, being a target for slurs. I did so for several years (I stopped because who I am is too integral a part of how I live my life to completely conceal it).

    So what’s the solution? We all must *consciously and actively alter our networks.*

    1. Go to meetings of minorities in technology (in Georgia, there’s the MTech Council).

    2. Volunteer to either teach or be a mentor at a historically/predominantly black, Hispanic serving or native/tribal college or university.

    3. Try to befriend — genuinely befriend — people who do not look like you.

    4. Consciously monitor and adjust your own assumptions about someone else’s inferiority because of their race, ethnicity or gender.

    I apologize for this post’s length, but it’s an issue that is very important to me.

  5. Hmm… racial relations. I find a lot of people don’t consciously mean to make social groups/networks with only a select “race” — it’s because they just haven’t been in the position or community to mix with other people.

    For example, a friend of mine lived in the suburbs of my city for all of her life. Went to school with predominantly white classmates. When she went to college deeper in the city, of course there was more of a mix of cultures available.

    She became friends with me. And I became her first ethnic friend. Ever. (I’m Canadian, but born in the Philippines) In fact, I’m still her only real non-white friend. 😛

    I found that very very odd, because just out of sheer… circumstance, I went to very different schools throughout my life that exposed me to different cultures: my elementary school was predominantly Ukrainian, my Jr. High was predominantly Italian and Portugese (we even had our grad at an Italian centre), and my high school had a lot of Brown people (Pakistani, Indian, Punjabi, etc.) and different Asian peoples. Then, back in college, I was again the only Filipino female (and one of the few Asians, period, and only Asian female!) in my college courses, where it seemed to be predominantly white.

    So, with that type of surroundings, I naturally am very open minded and knowledgeable about very many different cultures because they were all accessible to me! And, I’m very good friends with a very eclectic mix of peoples.

    I think, however, that because other races aren’t as “accessible” to you, that it should stop you from being proactive about it. I think some people need to be actively aware of their surroundings and even more active to make friends with people of colour. Not that you should make friends with someone ONLY because of their colour, but when the opportunity presents itself (or you MAKE the opportunity), you should run with it.

    P.S. This is why I love Canada. There are so many resources and events that strive to bring cultural knowledge to the forefront.

  6. You know, I suspect that there are more people like Sosa out there – who know of other hispanics, or blacks, or asians, etc. people who are outstanding in their field. One of my chief local competitors in this area is owned by an hispanic guy.

    Fact of the matter is, I never looked at it that way. For me, if a guy or gal is good at what they do, I wouldn’t think to catalog them as male, female, black, white, etc. I would catalog them as “good” if I cataloged them at all.

    I suspect there are a lot of people out there who are really good at what they do, period. All colors, all sexes, all sexual preference, etc. That’s the great thing about a freely available technology technology like this. It crosses all “barriers”, if you will. The only barriers are those you construct for yourself.

    Those who excel and get noticed are often those who make themselves noticed in another person’s eyes. Original, creative thinking, individuals – not groups.

  7. Let me rephrase: “As much, though, has to do with why women aren’t more visible,” should be: “Minorities are invisible for the same reasons women are.”

  8. Hey Molly, I’ll have to echo Keith’s graf:

    Fact of the matter is, I never looked at it that way. For me, if a guy or gal is good at what they do, I wouldn’t think to catalog them as male, female, black, white, etc. I would catalog them as “good” if I cataloged them at all.

    I think that artificially evening out racial “proportions” by accepting those of different skin color despite failing to make the cut is a fatal move to a business. For as long as qualifying people make the cut, it should not be a matter what their race is. If it were, that would be unconscionable. However, forcing an “even racial mix” despite merit (especially lack thereof) is just as racist, if not more so.

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  10. Another mexican here. I live in the same city as Sosa, actually.

    I think the whole debable is somewhat silly. I think what you said about blogging leveling the playing field is true, Molly. I’ve already gotten some opportunities I would never have gotten through my blog. It just takes time. And shameless plugging =).

  11. At the company where I work, we are a rare pocket of diversity. Both the advertising and marketing directors are white females, my boss (the IT director) is a male from Guyana, the graphic artist is a male African-American, and I’m a white, skinny dork.

    I understand that we are definitely the exception, not the rule, but I just wanted to state that there is hope.

  12. > We all must *consciously and actively alter our networks.*

    You’re not right.

  13. > We all must *consciously and actively alter our networks.*
    You’re not right.

    I am if you care about having a *true* meritocracy and not one shaped by a variety of -isms and who has the loudest shout. It’s easy to ask “Where are the …?” if you haven’t looked very hard.

  14. I can’t see how you can “consciously and actively alter [y]our networks” without willfully discriminating.

    >Consciously monitor and adjust your own assumptions about someone else’s inferiority because of their race, ethnicity or gender.

    You mean only if I _do_ have such assumptions, right? And in that case, I’m probably beyond help, non?

    > Try to befriend – genuinely befriend – people who do not look like you.

    And in the process, ignoring those who do? What of those who don’t make friends easily or often–you’re suggesting they limit the pool? And I can’t see how this act could possibly be genuine.

    Diversity is great…forced diversity isn’t.

  15. > Many people of color consciously downplay their race/ethnicity online

    how do you consciously downplay your race online? i never mention my race; it’s hardly ever relevant to what i’m saying, whether it’s a comment or a blog post. there’s no other way you could tell what race i am. that doesn’t mean i’m consciously downplaying it though, that just means that i’m more interested in what i’m writing ABOUT than that I’M writing it. every blog you read could be written by someone of color and you wouldn’t know unless they chose to tell you or posted pictures of themselves.

    mentioning that you have co-workers that are this, that, and the other doesn’t really prove anything about the prevalence or non-prevalence of minorities in the web world. it’s not a scientific sampling. there are bound to be fewer of us in the web world–that’s why we’re called “minorities”. there may also be fewer than that because of other well-known social factors, but i think we all have hope for that to change.

    i do think that this is a good issue to discuss, but not to the extent that gender or race become things that we all focus on. we can learn two things from discussions like this: 1) to try to temper our expectations of the people whose words we read and 2) race only matters in our writings as much as we want it to.

  16. I work in the UK, in a large software company, in a technical lead role, and consequently have taken part in a lot of interviewing. Over the last 3-4 years, the vast majority of all applicants have been either South Asian or West African, and so, consequently, have the resulting hires.

    I don’t know if it’s IT being seen as lower in status these days; or just too much like hard work with no glamour, compared with, say the media; or whether it’s the fact that we’re past the stage where teenage boys could write a commercially viable computer game in their bedrooms; or what – but a white face at the interview comes as a surprise nowadays.

  17. I feel that now, due to the anonymousity(sp?=op) the internet provides one, the matter of race, gender, and even age, for that matter, holds little significance! As long as you are good… ^.^

    I don’t know if it’s IT being seen as lower in status these days; or just too much like hard work with no glamour, compared with, say the media

    Do you intend to insinuate that non-whites aim for “low status” jobs, with no “glamour”?

  18. No one ever asks where are the Asians/Pacific Islanders in technology or science and medicine. The answers are rather obvious to me.

  19. Molly expands the topic. Summary: 1. color != race. 2. Ç!=white. 3. major minority focus ignores even more minorities.

  20. Vicnan — There has to be something about the perceptions of the IT industry that have changed over the last 20-odd years that has caused an active “white flight”. I don’t condone, merely observe, and try to reverse engineer what it might be.

  21. Haha.. ok! ^.^ I realised I may have come accross as hostile; I’m sorry! I was just curious..

  22. > how do you consciously downplay your race online?

    Easy: You *don’t* include a photo. You *don’t* discuss your musical tastes. You *don’t* post about things like Bill Cosby’s recent comments. You *don’t* type things like “Lawd these folks is workin’ my last nerve,” even though you’re typing it ironically.

    > I can’t see how you can “consciously and actively alter [y]our networks” without willfully discriminating.

    Huh? Perhaps “extending” would have been a clearer word to use than “alter”? All it means is you *also* go to places where people of different races/ethnicities (or genders, for that matter) are until you find someone you *genuinely* like.

    >> Consciously monitor and adjust your own assumptions about someone else’s inferiority because of their race, ethnicity or gender.

    > You mean only if I _do_ have such assumptions, right? And in that case, I’m probably beyond help, non?

    If you live in the U.S. you almost certainly have them. Assumptions about race, ethnicity and gender are built into our national culture (trivial example: Hispanic actors are almost always “hot,” “sizzling,” or “muy caliente”). But that’s another post for another ‘blog. The idea is to realize you make these assumptions and stop letting them interfere with your perceptions of others as best you can. Assuming you think you have them and want to change, of course.

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  24. It occurs to me occasionally that there doesn’t appear to be many Welsh people making their mark on the web, but to be truthful race or gender doesn’t bother me and rarely enters my thoughts.

  25. I spoke about this a while ago with parallels to the GOP and the Tech Industry. Here. Blogroll me or be a hypocrite.

  26. by the way, my last name is Bowen. It’s Welsh.

  27. AMERICANS TALK TO MUCH ABOUT RACE. IT’S RIDUCULOUS. JUST LIVE AND LET LIVE. GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

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