Addressing Race & Discrimination in Tech| Part II
As a Hispanic professional in the US, there are some things I have learned and I would like to share with you all. The topic of race & discrimination is a heavy topic. Whenever I’m asked to talk about it, I’m quite anxious and I feel some level of responsibility for my community.
Although I don’t know who you are, I do have this sense of I must make sure you walk away with something you did not have before. What I’m about to share are just my experiences and my own research; it is not meant to be the solution for everything. Remember, this is just a single perception.
When I talk about addressing discrimination in tech, I am talking about creatively solving a problem rooted in discrimination based on any traits that aren’t evident in the development of technologies used in our daily lives. We have a long history of racism in the world, the tech itself isn’t racist; the process and the decisions to produce tech does bring up inequitable gaps to consider for a large group of people who historically have been discriminated. The reality is that technology is a reflection of who we are as people and the mindsets of people who are responsible for how tech is being created.
The disparity gap happens because there is a lack of the following three steps:
RECOGNITION — EMPATHY — SPACE
Recognition: The acknowledgment that the product may have a problem.
• How our product shows up in the market and in the hands of various (i.e. ethnic, income, gender, lifestyle) populations?
• What is our product missing?
•What is missing in our team?
•Why that is occurring?
•Does that happen in the foundation of the organization?
• How is ADA being addressed?
Conduct user research to learn what are the problems and get some data. One effective method is user or stakeholder interviews focusing on experiences of the workplace or people who utilize that service or product so you can learn what problems exist. Listen without becoming defensive, this will give you insights you didn’t know before. Get clarity ask why.
Empathy: Empathize with how isolating it might feel using a product that does not address your needs. Imagine using a product that utilizes facial recognition only to find out it doesn’t recognize or targets your face. It can be a dehumanizing experience. It reminds the user they somehow don’t belong and the user might wonder “did product development even considered me?”
Space: Providing an opportunity for change to take place. That could look like an open meeting to discuss user interviews, bring a problem within a product to address an issue, becoming a resource for your teammates, and so on.
When creating that space, you want to make sure you are clear in the following:
- What information or data did you get from user research that prompted you to create this space?
- What are the rules and the protocols for all the individuals participating in this space so they have an opportunity to share, listen and to interact?
- What are the goals or takeaways taking place in this space? What do you want people to walk away with?
These are just some suggestions when creating that space. By doing so, you are creating opportunities for systemic change and how technology is being developed.
RECOGNITION — EMPATHY — SPACE are not solutions but the beginning of a process in dialogue.
Addressing the topic of race and discrimination without any prior training is very daunting. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a conversation with yourself and your team to understand what, how, and why discrimination in tech is occurring.
If you are not a person of color, do not pass 100% responsibility to lead the conversation of racism and discrimination to people of color because the reality is people of color have had this conversation and they shouldn’t be expected to teach or tell you why it matters, there is a sense of trauma that we are experiencing within our own unique capacity. That doesn’t mean you can’t include them. YOU SHOULD INCLUDE THEIR VOICE. That conversation should have a mutually agreed respect of their boundaries and you have to clearly communicate how you plan to move forward. Don’t say “Thanks for sharing your story now tell me what I should do.” A suggested response would be “Thanks for sharing. Let me [Insert your next steps.]”
I hope you were able to learn something from my own perception. I am willing to be wrong and being corrected. I am being educated as well.
Thank you for listening 🙂