Last weekend, a conversation about diversity took place on twitter
between several prominent folks in the Agile and Testing communities.
and if you're not familiar with the gist of what transpired, this reply
may make more sense if you read the transcript first.
First, I need to make clear that I'm not involved with the
Diversity in Agile project
in any way. What I'm about to say is based on having observed other
initiatives of this same sort, and on seeing a pattern of discussion
that's been repeated in workplaces, in the open source community, and
now, to my dismay, in the Agile testing community.
Why give out awards for being a female in the technology field?
jbtestpilot: Request: can a "woman-in-test" explain to me how it feels to be honored & rewarded because of their gender?
Sat Jun 05 05:10:01 +0000 2010
As several people involved in the project
the project isn't giving out "awards". Moreover, the point of
initiatives like this isn't to give out some kind of condescending
"You're pretty good, for a girl!" award. It's to
increase the visibility of women who are successful in the
Agile community -- to adjust people's mindsets
so that their idea of a successful Agile professional includes
someone who happens to be female.
This has -- one hopes -- these benefits:
People in the Agile community become less likely to make
negative assumptions about women in the community.
Life for women in Agile gets better, in that they're less likely
to be subject to sexist behaviour, like someone questioning their
competence because they are female.
The Agile community is seen as a group that welcomes
diversity. Women or other minorities who are considering
taking part in the Agile community feel as though they are welcome
to do so -- that they won't be singled out because of their gender,
race, orientation, and so forth.
This isn't about trying to enforce some kind of "diversity quota".
It's about making our community more aware of diversity issues,
more welcoming for folks of diverse backgrounds, and a better place
for everyone who's part of the community, regardless of their
What's this about "empowering women"? Is this all about women
Protestations to the contrary aside, the phrase "empowering women" isn't
about placing women above men. The starting point for this discussion
is that women are disempowered, and so "empowering women"
means to bring them to a place of equality. It's a level playing
field that's being aimed for, not some kind of reverse sexism.
Gender & Biology 101
jamesmarcusbach: @lanettecream I guarantee you
every normal male who works with you is actively suppressing certain
thoughts. That's just biology.
Sat Jun 05 08:40:56 +0000 2010
I take exception to the insinuation that because I am male, there is
some part of my mind that is perpetually thinking about sleeping with
my female peers. This might be James' experience. It's not mine,
and it's presumptuous and insulting to claim that it is.
Telling someone that she is constantly being viewed as a sexual object
by all of her male peers, and further that this is the
incontrovertible natural order of things, is not helpful.
It's fucking creepy.
Gender & Biology 102
On the topic of biology:
while it's been shown that men & women have neurological differences,
it's a gross mistake to overgeneralize this and assume that
all women tend to think in one way and all men in another.
The differences between individuals are much greater than any biological
difference between sexes.
To use a coarse example: there are both women and men who are fantastic
chefs. Even supposing that one sex has more inherent culinary ability
than the other, that difference is completely eclipsed by the chasm
in ability between individuals who are spectacularly talented cooks and
those who are abysmal ones.
We have a whole bunch of different straight white guys on the team.
Isn't that diversity?
There are two "diversities" that are being conflated in this discussion.
I'll arbitrarily dub them "thought diversity"
and "personal diversity".
Personal diversity has to do with each
team member's background and who they are.
Do they hail from Argentina, Australia, or Angola? Do they have a
degree in computer science, philosophy, or none at all? What's their
gender identity, their race, their class background? This is
personal diversity -- the differences between the
team members as individuals.
Thought diversity refers to the diversity
of ideas that people come up with as a result of
their different ways of thinking. Thought diversity
is informed by each person's life experience, and thus by "personal
diversity". Say two testers are trying to reproduce an
elusive bug. Perhaps one will start by trying actions that have
caused similar bugs in the past. The other might start by looking
through log files to see if anything relevant turns up. These two
different approaches represent thought diversity.
An Agile team needs to cultivate thought diversity
because it needs different perspectives on problems to succeed.
It needs welcome and support personal diversity not just
as a means to engender thought diversity,
but because it is the right thing to do.
Treating someone inequitably is wrong.
It's as plain as that.
Diversity's Not My Problem
Screw that, it's everybody's problem.
If we have an imbalance in who can take part in the Agile community,
or in our industry -- if people are leaving the profession because
they're being singled out for unfair treatment, or not joining it
because they don't feel like dealing with the environment they'll
find there -- that's a problem for all of us.
By turning people away,
we are missing out on talent and ideas that can help us
propel our craft forwards.
If you care about the future of our industry, you should care about
diversity. Think about it.