Moving From Diversity to Inclusion

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Definition of Diversity

  • Different perspectives, backgrounds, experiences
  • Representation - representation of folks from particular communities, be it women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and so forth. And thinking about which of these dimensions to people emphasize or track when trying to understand whether a space is diverse or not.
  • Thinking about what scopes we're measuring within.

Sometimes we can make a space look diverse, e.g. with race or gender, without actually making spaces welcoming to self-expression.

Definition of Inclusion

  • being able to be present, without having to be a representative for some particular identity.
  • ability to express the identity of self.
  • no outsiders
  • welcoming difference
  • respecting difference.

So the difference, then, is:

It's not just having different backgrounds, experiences, communities represented, it's welcoming and valuing these differences.

If we're changing the demographics of a space, there are other changes we need to also make to allow folks to be able to express their differences and feel valued for them.

Inclusive Spaces

Examples of spaces that felt inclusive

  • While DevSummit started out with lot of white guys, there's been explicit mention of and intention around trying to change the power dynamics.
  • Having slow speaking be respected, empowering voices we're not hearing much.
  • Diverse facilitators
  • Having and regularly mentioning a code of conduct. Having ways to report problems, having that well communicated.
  • Having the organizers be modeling the desired behaviors.
  • People taking advantage of their role as a facilitator to reiterate expectations, etc.
  • Pointing out the idea of having different people take notes and such.
  • Saying it (e.g. with the above point, having note takers frequently be women, for example) before it happens.

Examples of spaces that did not

  • A "diversity" group where it's very much about numbers.
  • having specific identities be accepted, while others are not. (Hierarchy of identities.)
  • Having facilitators who do not share the identities that someone does.
  • Lack of clarity around the goals of inclusion.
  • Unspoken focus on particular types of diversity.

Code of conduct, more detail

  • Some guidelines around mediation have guidelines around no interrupting, an order of who is speaking, etc.
  • But there are some communication styles where that's a very normal way of doing things, so that can be exclusive.
  • Having explicit expectations, which are descriptive and specific, not allowing a wide range of interpretations (e.g. "be good to each other").
  • Having explicit plans on what happens if something arises.
  • Having explicit instructions ("talk to somebody if you see something" versus "here is a phone number to call")
  • Not just having the code, but having things around implementing the code.
  • Having different ways to communicate, and different people to report to, which represent different backgrounds.

Tips, tools, practices

Not calling these "best practices", because what works in one space may not work for others, and also just recognizing varying experiences.

What are some tips folks want?

  • being an ally in a space
  • strategies for responding to things that are having a negative impact in the setting. Especially those things that do not rise to the level of a code of conduct violation.
  • How to deal with a situation where a past experience or otherwise events outside of a space, impacting how people feel inside a space.
  • balancing responding promptly and urgency, with thoroughness and trying to make the response the best thing, especially in a complicated scenario where facilitators aren't sure how exactly to respond right away.
  • How to deal with a situation wherein folks are referring to mixed-gender groups as "guys". Where it's a relatively small thing, and doesn't in itself feel unsafe, yet which can set up something in the culture which feels uncomfortable.
  • When and how to say something about a relatively minor thing.

Tips + tools

  • Modeling inclusive language (i.e. not saying "you guys")
  • Doing a small gathering for facilitators, and/or having a facilitator's guide, to help get facilitators on the same page.
  • Setting expectations at the beginning, so that it's easy for folks later (facilitators or participants) to remind people about that, without being the first to bring it up.
  • Participants holding others accountable for working agreements.
  • Being careful about saying a space or area is "unsafe" ("unsafe neighborhood", etc.)
  • Asking someone to unpack such things.
  • Unpacking jargon.
  • Encouraging to ask questions.
  • "If you don't say it's wrong, then that says it's right" - Solomon Burke, in None of us are free
  • Making it welcome to express when someone feels uncomfortable, without necessarily having to know or express why.
  • "Calling in", rather than "calling out". So rather than "Don't say you guys", give information about why something is problematic. Also asking questions like "what do you mean by guys?", which can maybe avoid having people shut down in certain ways.
  • Thinking about things like childcare
  • Transcription
  • Non-alcoholic beverage options that aren't really boring
  • variety of food options
  • having intention and thought about how to put things together.

Other thoughts

A lot of this boils down to intention. If you have the intention to make sure that a lot of different backgrounds know about an opportunity, then that's the first, most important step to make sure that you have connections in those spaces to share the opportunity.

As a community grows, you can be more connected with places to share information about opportunities.

Having intention does take some time, but it doesn't take that much time, and the importance of it is huge, and so it's really worthwhile stuff to do.

How to do diversity-focused outreach without tokenizing folks.

Having outreach be reciprocal and outgoing. Ongoing relationship building, not just an e-mail blast. Can I help you do outreach for your thing, too. Make it a two-way street.

When reaching out to a particular community, giving them a specific topic that you're hoping they'll talk about, and maybe having specific key people sharing about those topics. This can then create a culture that's conducive to inclusion. More generally, being direct and specific in your asks.

Reflecting on where you're lacking in diversity, and trying to figure out how you're failing to be inclusive in that way.

Don't invite folks that you can't be inclusive of. (E.g. if you don't have an accessible space, don't reach out to handicapped folks yet, until you can make that.)

Reaching out to people (before hand) and asking what they need, to see whether and how you can offer that.

Things we wish we'd had time to cover

  • Inclusion at more traditional conferences, and in panels and such
  • How can we make more hierarchical spaces more inclusive?

Resources