Facets: Issue 15

March 19, 2016

Not a Black Chair

Amélie Lamont
"She stared at me for a few seconds and remarked, 'Oh. I didn’t see you. You blended in. You’re so black, you blend into the chair.'"

A piercing account of discrimination experienced while working at Squarespace, this piece cannot have been easy to write and share. The unprofessional, prejudiced behaviour at every turn is staggering, made worse when dismissed by jokes, form e-mails, and feigned ignorance. Lamont’s strength in documenting this behaviour can not and should not go unnoticed— Squarespace must own up to their mistake, other companies must learn from it, and we all must remember the piece's final words: we deserve to be valued, safe, free, and heard when something goes wrong.

GDC, Assimilation and Opportunity: What A Free Event Ticket Costs When You’re A Marginalized Developer

Veve Jaffa
"Diversity initiatives such as GDC ticket giveaways create a false equivalency between opportunity and access."

Jaffa makes the valuable point that the journey of marginalized people is far more important than their presence at events. Even if that presence implies progress, Jaffa urges us to look beyond that image; the reality endures that a "free" event ticket doesn’t take into account the surrounding costs of traveling to or attending an event, and papers over the cracks of inclusion. It ignores the true problem that afflicts underrepresented developers— having true ability to build resources to finance their work— and replaces it with tokenism.

A black man walks into Silicon Valley and tries to get a job...

Andy Newman
"I simply don’t fill enough checkboxes. I’m not a culture fit, a friend of a friend, or a Stanford grad that could afford to live in San Francisco while job hunting."

A sobering account of a Silicon Valley job search, and all the ridiculous excuses heard along the way. As part of Newman's search, he hears that he doesn’t have enough experience, that he has too much experience, or most often hears nothing at all. Job specifications change on the fly, and relocation reimbursement is never offered, not even partially. Newman describes how these hiring practices and their hidden costs make it impossible to build the diverse culture that Silicon Valley says it wants. In the end, he says, we will find jobs, support, and build diverse communities elsewhere.

You Say You Want Diversity, But We Can’t Even Get Internships

"Being self-taught is accepted and even highly respected when you’re a white male. If you are a woman or belong to other underrepresented groups, it’s totally different"

A takedown of the internship process which focuses not on the cost of the internship itself, but the cost of wanting one. Anna points out that opportunities advertised to the underrepresented fail to take into account everything that goes into the application process: forms, creating assets, making YouTube videos, taking part in technical tests, etc. This all takes time, time that we aren't compensated for. Coding academies, too, often don’t consider living expenses, and time (and money) lost not working. Diversity isn’t possible when the opportunities offered come at too high a price.

Privilege and Inequality in Silicon Valley

Ricky Yean
"I didn’t want to have a lesser, second-rate experience. I so desperately wanted to maintain the illusion that I was on equal footing."

Yean introduces us to the concept of mindset equality, to the considerable effort of adopting the ‘everything-is-possible’ mindset of the more fortunate; there exist pressures of keeping up socially, financially, and intellectually. According to Yean, these pressures and the inequality they breed are one of the main reasons why we see fewer founders from underrepresented backgrounds. When there are families to take care of and loans to pay back, there is far more incentive to provide and support than to innovate.

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