Welcome to Inclusive Bee: The monthly “buzz” on how MVPs can cultivate diverse and inclusive communities.
As an MVP and a tech leader, you are setting an example for the rest of the community. This month, MVPs are identifying four areas of focus as inclusive community leaders.
#1) Be a visible ally. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it is not safe to assume that everyone around you is an ally. Being a visible ally helps reassure people around you they are in a safe space to be themselves.
It's up to you to decide how you choose to be a visible ally. It may be that you share resources on social media, add your preferred pronouns to your email signature, wear a rainbow lanyard at work, support charities and businesses owned and operated by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, amplify diverse voices of unrepresented minorities in tech, and more!
Data Platform MVP Andy Mallon shares: "As a cis white man, I know that I have the privilege of blending in in tech. When I started to be an active speaker/blogger/organizer, I made a conscious decision to be unabashedly out and queer. The directness sends a clear message of a safe space that extends beyond me. Over the years, this has led to folks approaching me to talk through personal and family situations of harassment, coming out, and transitioning. These conversations are usually less about getting advice, but rather just having a conversation where people are safe to be open and vulnerable."
#2) Sponsor. A coach talks to you; a mentor talks with you; a sponsor talks about you. As a tech leader, you have the power and influence to help others get opportunities to advance their career. Sponsors are particularly important for women and people of color who often lack sponsorship opportunities – they may not feel like they can ask someone to sponsor them. Use your influence to connect someone to useful people, high profile assignments and promotions.
Business Apps MVP Paul Culmsee notes, "Microsoft's vision statement is “empower everyone.” And it is reflected in most facets in how the company now operates in terms of product design, community engagement and recognition. Where we as MVPs and solution providers fit is bringing that vision down to the coalface of delivery. A fundamental part of my business is to bring in trainees who typically would not get an opportunity and have them work with us on solution delivery. For the right project and client, the results are incredible and there is something very exciting and satisfying about seeing latent talent being unleashed to its potential."
#3) Listen. Listen to the people you are trying to support – follow them on social media and even better, read work by other people who are part of marginalized communities. Practice active listening to educate yourself. Learn to recognize things that are hurtful and harmful to the community. And, before you add your voice as an ally, make sure you have listened and heard what the people who are a part of those communities have to say.
Business Applications MVP Anton Robbins believes in standing up for the underdog. "I have empathy for those who do not have a voice or looked. I grew up in a domestic violence setting. As I got older, I vowed to speak up and stand my ground to help others. My great grandmother said: Stand for what's right. Be a tree to shade others from the hurt and wrong.
#4) Say No. Have you been asked to speak at an event or on a panel? Great! Before committing, find out who the other speakers will be at the event or on your panel. Is it diverse? If not, you have the power to say "no" or ask "why not?". If the organizers are willing, offer recommendations for additions to the panel or event.
Developer Technologies MVP Larene Le Gassick has experienced seeing both sides of the coin. “For context, I'm Australian-born and raised Chinese-Australian in her early 30s, my pronoun is she/her. As an organiser (Women Who Code, CTO School), I've put together many panels and, in the past, I've unconsciously invited a panel of six middle-aged white males to talk about DevOps.”
“Someone called me out (privately), and after a bit of embarrassment for not noticing, chatted with panellists and reached out to find non-male speakers, and was fully transparent with the community about my mistake. Don't be afraid to respectfully reach out to organisers if you see a lack of diversity! As a speaker, I've said no to conferences that do not have a diversity scholarship. I've also said no to diversity and inclusion panels where the panellists are all white women (I class myself in the same category). The number one reason you'll hear from organisers is: we know it's an issue, but no women / black / (other minority) speakers applied. In 2020, that's not good enough.”
“And please, do not let conference organisers give you extra work to help them find more speakers, unless you would like to. It's not your job, it's theirs. So, please don't be afraid to say No, (thanks)."
Data Platform MVP Thomas LaRock shares, "Last year at a conference I raised concerns about a panel I was asked to participate. I stressed the need for diversity. As a result, I was dropped in order to make room for someone new. I’ve also turned down events that are heavily male. I also turned down a book because it was five white men. I’ve turned down so much in the past few years I think a lot of people have just stopped asking. I’m ok as long as I see new, diverse people and voices."