Bias In Tech: Reading And Resources

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

I love working in technology. However, over the last year, I've become increasingly aware of the problem of bias in the tech industry. Many people like to think of the tech world as a meritocracy, but in reality this is far from the truth. This post is a list of resources that have opened my eyes to some of the inherent biases in tech, as well as a short explanation of why I believe everyone should know about - and care about - making tech a more open and diverse community. Feel free to skip straight to the resources, since they are the important part!

What's the issue?

The long and short of it is that the tech sphere has a problem with inclusivity. Our industry is set up, whether through intent or ignorance, to give certain people -people like me, who are white and male - an easy ride. Simultaneously, we restrict and alienate those who belong to minority groups, making it much harder for them to enter, and stay in, the world of technology. And the worst part is that most of us don't even know we're doing it.

Many more eloquent and better informed individuals than I have discussed the issue time and again, so I won't go into depth - check out the resources below for details.

Why should I care?

As a beneficiary of privilege, it is easy to see this pressing issue of bias as something that isn't a problem, because you have no personal experience of it. However, this is a flawed view. In reality, while your privilege may shield you from the direct effects of discrimination, the broader implications negatively affect every member of the industry. Who really wants to work in a culture where everyone is the same, thinks the same and has the same frame of experience? Who wants to work in a culture which opens doors for a certain group, but hurts and hinders others? These things aren't a recipe for a successful community or a successful industry.

What should we do?

The first step to overcoming a systemic problem is for the majority to acknowledge it. This requires people to be properly informed. Fortunately, there are lots of fantastic resources out there that do a great job of both explaining the problem of inequality in tech, and suggesting ways that those of us who benefit from privilege can use those benefits to help even the scales.

Resources

Here are a list of resources that have been invaluable to me in learning about the issues surrounding sexism, racism and discrimination in tech, and becoming more aware of my own privilege. I've highlighted articles that I found particularly useful or eye-opening.

Articles

Geek Feminism Wiki

A wiki about feminism in tech. Good starting points include:

  • Resources for Allies - A list of resources with advice on how to support feminism in technology.
  • Feminism 101 - A brief overview of what feminism means, as well as major feminist concepts.
  • Privilege - An explanation of the term 'privilege' in the context of equality.

Ashe Dryden's Blog

Highlights:

Shanley Kane's Blog

Highlights:

  • What Can Men Do? - An overview of practical actions men can take to support and promote equality in technology.
  • Reading List For A New Kind Of Manager - A list of useful reading material for managers who care about inclusivity. This post in turn inspired me to write this list.

Julie Pagano's List of Diversity in Tech Resources

A curated list of interesting articles around diversity in the tech industry.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Specifically about racial privilege, but offers an explanation of privilege which is more generally applicable.

Presentations

Jessica McKellar's PyCon 2014 Keynote

An excellent overview of the problems with diversity in the US computer science education system, as well as ways that everyone can help to overcome these problems.

Books

Feminism Is For Everybody - bell hooks

A primer on the fundamental ideas behind feminism.

Charitable Organizations

PyLadies

An organization for promoting women in Python.

Black Girls Code

A charity dedicated to helping women of colour make their way in STEM.

The ADA Initiative

Supporting women in open technology and culture.


Read one of the articles, share this to one person, or donate to one of the charities listed - it all helps. Additionally, if you know of any other good resources around tech diversity, please let me know in the comments! I am definitely still learning, so suggestions are welcome.

Thanks goes to all of the authors whose work I've listed above, as they are the ones who are doing the hard job of opening people's eyes to these important problems.

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