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Practicing empathy can teach us the value of diversity and inclusion in tech (medium.com)
26 points by neeco 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments



No, it really can't and everyone needs to stop pushing this corporate narrative. This is another one of those feel-good gestures that doesn't really result in any real progress.

Can you imagine the next time the topic of gender or bamboo ceiling pay comes up, we can just hug it out... right? No. Real laws need to be enacted to enforce good social policies, with real consequences to bear for those who break it. Even more relevant today, there are reports of police 'throwing' down their riot shields to join protestors, only to shoot them with rubber bullets a half hour later. Don't be fooled by kumbaya moments, solidarity and collective bargaining is the answer. And that will lead us to enact laws that will benefit the people, as history has shown us again and again.

Let's form a tech union already.


Hi, I'm the author of the post. Thanks for reading and for the honest criticism.

Do you agree that convincing more people in the tech industry to genuinely understand the inequality that exists, and the value of inclusive practices, is a prerequisite to achieving the impactful policies you cited? How do we get laws enacted or create a successful tech union while the white and male majorities in tech continue to feel indifferent or only passively supportive of these policies?

The intent of my post is to persuade people like myself to care about social justice, with a specific emphasis on the tech industry, in order to get more people acting towards substantive change. Over and over again, I've seen presentations, seminars and studies fail to convince people that diversity and inclusion are issues employees everywhere needs to be personally invested in. Instead of these generic and emotionally distant approaches, I argue that we should look to real-life examples in our own workplaces.


I enjoyed your thoughtful post. Teams and companies are made up individuals. Individual actions matter, and I do think if more people tried: listening with a mindset of learning instead of arguing, trying to make sure that people can finish a sentence, and generally keeping a positive, fair, respectful atmosphere, that would do a lot more than the emotionally distant approaches.


One way you can improve diversity in your workforce is to actively seek out underrepresented communities when you are hiring.

You can't control who is applying to your job postings, but you can control who you reach out to to fill those positions.

If you can find people who don't fit the white male programmer mold and let them know about the jobs you have available, you're making the choice to prioritize diversity and inclusion in your teams.


What is it with hiring solely to achieve diversity standards instead of hiring for who is actually qualified the most for the job?


Do you believe there that the idea of finding "the most qualified candidate" is a realistic expectation? Hiring is a highly subjective and qualitative process with a very slow, weak feedback loop.

How does your company iterate on the criteria used to find the "most qualified" candidate, especially without some way to compare the theoretical performance of the candidates you turned down to the real performance of the one you hired?


There is almost always more than one highly qualified candidate.


Looking through non-traditional channels for talent does not mean you are lowering your standards.

Claiming that standards are being lowered without any evidence is actually super racist.


Don't under represented people in tech use Stack Overflow and Linked In?

We got a number of women applying for a front end position that we posted recently. None of them met the criteria that we asked for (5 years experience).


what's your point, exactly? men are way more likely to apply for jobs when they don't meet the requirements than women are, generally.

if you're legitimately using years of experience as a /hard/ cutoff, you're selecting for a very interesting signal that i would argue does not really optimize for candidate quality.

of course, your tech stack may warrant that requirement - i don't care - but this idea that "there are no qualified women/underrepresented groups" conveniently feeds onto itself - underrepresented groups see themselves as less likely to get the job, so don't apply, so don't build up resumes, probably leading to them exiting tech, etc.

at the end of the day, any true improvements to the system are going to make white men uncomfortable. yes, looking for candidates in particular fora associated with women/minorities/etc is positively boosting their chances vis-a-vis white men who aren't on those lists. that's the way it is going to have to be.


We got lots of underqualified candidates and the few that did have anything more than a couple of years experience were all male. Where should we have been looking for more "under represented" candidates? And why should we be looking for under-represent candidates?


Look at meetups, social groups, conferences that serve underrepresented communities (both locally and nationally).

You should be looking because diversity of experience and opinion helps you build a more well-rounded product that your users can empathize with. Alternative and comprehensive perspectives will only help your group thrive and expand their reach as well as build a sense of community and culture on your teams.


>You should be looking because diversity of experience and opinion helps you build a more well-rounded product that your users can empathize with.

When I use HN I don't wonder if the person that added the "reply" button is black or not... I don't really understand this. (I am black)


IMHO, it's corporate milquetoast: people can't actually tell their bosses 'because we want to be decent people' so these mantras became a way to tie inclusionism to the bottom line, thereby making it fiscally acceptable.

AFAIK, there is precious little actual research pointing either way. No doubt it's an extremely nebulous subject to study. Groupthink is certainly a thing, but I haven't seen strong evidence linking diversity hiring to the particular outcomes it is claims to treat.


The meetup groups I have been to have been just as much of a sausage party as any companies I worked for.

Why do you need different skin colour or a vagina to have an alternative perspective? Do I think the same as all other white guys? Or do my blue eyes give me some unique insight that brown eyes (which are uncommon in this country) don't?


Full disclosure, I haven't had time to vet the individual studies cited, but this article could be a good starting point to investigate this idea. Be sure to at least look at the second half, where they move from correlation to causation: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-mak...

Here's the paragraph I want to highlight:

"Members of a homogeneous group rest somewhat assured that they will agree with one another; that they will understand one another's perspectives and beliefs; that they will be able to easily come to a consensus. But when members of a group notice that they are socially different from one another, they change their expectations. They anticipate differences of opinion and perspective. They assume they will need to work harder to come to a consensus. This logic helps to explain both the upside and the downside of social diversity: people work harder in diverse environments both cognitively and socially. They might not like it, but the hard work can lead to better outcomes."


While I disagree with @collyw, what you're proposing is based on purely touchy-feely claims. BTW I don't 'empathize' with products, I use them. They're tools, no more.


There is a great deal of evidence around algorithms exhibiting bias, which can harm consumers. Here's one example of facial recognition algorithms: https://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ir/2019/NIST.IR.8280.pdf

Users may not consciously "empathize" with products, but they will be discouraged from using them when their experience using them is sub-optimal.


I hired a woman with just LaunchCode experience in web development, because I could tell she had the drive and aptitude after interviewing her. Ended up being awesome. 5 years is a long time in front-end land, I wish I could forget more than half the shit I've learned/put up with over the past 15+ years. Not saying you're doing it wrong, just an anecdote.


A guy I worked with had used python for years. He was amazed when he found out I only had a couple of months' with it.

I 1) have huge background experience that I can transfer from 2) put in a lot of work to learn the subject before I start working 3) can tackle hard problems 4) I like hard problems.

I'm not sure you're looking for the right thing, in business terms. (NB, am not a woman, and this isn't about python per se, just making a point).


You do realize the irony in looking for an underrepresented group with a long period of experience, right?


5 years is considered long now? And no we weren't looking for an under-represented group at all. We just posted our job ads in the most obvious places when looking for a candidate. Personally I think we should be hiring on merit rather than any other factors.


> Personally I think we should be hiring on merit rather than any other factors.

if by merit you mean competency in coding, and by years of experience you effectively mean years in coding, what you have stated here is directly in conflict with your requirements of 5 years of experience. nothing personal: them's the breaks.

admittedly, i get what you're trying to do - filter out bad candidates cheaply - but one ought to be able to introspect and see what they're saying (signaling) and what their actions show.

there are tons of very talented people leaving bootcamps, students out of colleges, etc. that are not going to every qualify, and may already be more sharp than some corporate drone with 5 years under his belt. hell, imagine all the first-job people with 1-2 years of experience who are hungry to level up their technical skills but can't get your job.


True, but its unlikely to find outstanding bootcamp graduates. A lot of what we are looking for isn't ability hackerrank type challenges, but a more mature person capable of other aspects of the product lifestyle as well as just coding. But as you say it is a quick and easy filter for assumed ability. It didn't stop many people applying, though looking at their resumes in more detail did.

We already got lots of very poor candidates. I doubt removing the filters that we did have would have improved things.


Damn right 5 years is a long time. A very long time. If a competent programmer in language L in domain D can't transfer to another language L2 and domain D2 in half a decade then they aren't fit to employ at all.

Curious: what are you doing that you think 5 years' experience is necessary?


Why do you think its only about language ability and coding?


Why don't you tell me what those other things are instead of expecting me to guess?

I presume those other things are not[0] gender and skin colour, so what else is relevant, you tell me.

[0] almost missed out the 'not'. That would have made for fun fireworks.


I think the persons point was assuming you were looking to fill a position with an under-represented group (which is what i inferred too), than hiring someone beyond entry level experience may increase the number of under-represented group at your company, but not in the overall workforce.


5 years in front-end is long enough to have been there for major shifts in the way we write for the client. 5 years ago is when es6 came out.


I forget who it was, but a few years ago the inventor of a language used at a major tech company (I think it was Google) was denied a job because he didn't have X years of experience with the language.

The language had not been in use for X years, anywhere....




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