I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found it harder to “not get political” than with this election. Can any two candidates be more polarizing? Can Facebook get any more fraught with zealously divergent opinions? I hope not. But, the election is still several months away, and friends – it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
In the midst of this political mire, it’s easy to forget that we actually have a lot of power to create the changes we want to see. Going to the polls isn’t the only way to vote – and one might argue it’s not even the most impactful. We also vote with how we spend our time, and with how we spend our money.
Here are a few of my ideas for how we can bring about positive change in the tech industry all year.
3 Ways I Choose to Contribute to Positive Change
If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve become more and more vocal about promoting inclusivity and diversity in tech – for people of color, transgender people, and every other marginalized population. But if you’re not the CEO or hiring manager of your company, you might feel like you have limited say in who gets hired or how they’re treated (or, if you’re a contract worker like me, you have NO say). My answer to you is this: Think outside your box.
Join Fund Club
Anyone can support marginalized people in tech at Join Fund Club. When you become a member, you get a monthly email with Fund Club’s new pick: a project, initiative, event or organization focused on diverse communities in technology. You commit to give $100 to the month’s selection, directly to the recipient project (no middle-men taking a cut). Make no mistake – it IS a commitment, and you don’t get to pick and choose who or what gets your money. But, from my experience, each project chosen has been pretty incredible. Example: CallbackWomen’s mission is to radically expand gender diversity at the podium of professional programmers’ conferences.
Sponsor Model View Media
Model View Culture is a magazine about technology, culture and diversity. In fact, I think their description of their latest issue says it best:
“In this issue, we deconstruct the rhetoric of imposter syndrome, cover the implications of artificial intelligence for queer and trans people, and critique claims behind the 3D printing “revolution.” We look at the cost of the Lean In industry on women in tech, and ponder bots and digital dualism. Plus, unpacking the mythology of indie success in the games industry, and a new organization focused on trans women in software.”
And that’s just ONE issue! You can see why I’m excited. You can support them by purchasing a print subscription or digital subscription, or you can donate a subscription for someone who can’t afford it.
The fact that it’s interesting and well-written is Model View Culture’s biggest selling point – but how does supporting it create positive change?
For this, I go to Becca Edwards, Strategy Director at Rallio, who contributed some words of wisdom on the power of awareness.
“I think awareness is key to bringing about change. A friend or mentor pointing out where you can improve and you taking the time to absorb their criticism. Maybe it’s awareness that there can be a better way. Or that an action or mentality affects more than just you. Or that you’re loved and worth love, no matter what you are or what you do, and that you have a safe space to change. That’s when I would evaluate what I’m doing and take complete stock of the situation. I’m a reader, so I’d look for research and writings on the thing I need to change to get a better understanding of it. After that, it’s setting goals (starting with small steps) and reasonable expectations for meeting those goals.”
Support Projects on Patreon
Without art and creativity, where would the tech industry be? Probably in someone’s garage, or in an uninspired office park. You don’t have to code to be in tech – and you don’t have to have an aversion to numbers to be an artist, writer or creative. Patreon is a crowdfunding platform, but unlike Kickstarter, the goal isn’t to raise one large lump sum, but to fund creators who create a stream of smaller projects. It’s more like a paid subscription. For $2-$7 a month, you can help support someone’s work and get regular “rewards.” Another difference – you get the goods before you pay, which, if you’ve been burned by Kickstarter projects, is a nice thing.
There is a huge range of artists and creative projects, from Cosplay to independent journalism. One project I find interesting is Egyptoon, an Egyptian cartoon on YouTube that presents social and political issues and current events in Egypt and the Arab world with humor and sarcasm.
Then, with a decidedly more techy bent, there’s Why I Need Diverse Games, which sponsors attendance at gaming conventions, promotes game creators who make diverse games, and highlights the work of underrepresented people in the games industry.
Lauren Van Mullem says she uses Patreon to support the work of a writer who traveled to Sweden to record the stories of Syrian refugees. For $2 per story, she gets a unique glimpse into the refugee situation from their perspective.
How Other Awesome People are Making Positive Change
Creating and supporting positive change is a team effort, so I opened up the question to some of my favorite people in the tech industry. But first, I ran across this post from Erica Joy that I’d love to share with you. My favorite sentence (because it’s hilarious):
The Bay Area is full of photographers. Throw a burrito in any direction in San Francisco and you’ll probably piss someone off for getting queso fresco on their brand new lens.
And, my favorite part (because it’s pertinent):
Making sure diversity permeates all aspects of the business, voting with dollars to support other companies who value diversity, making diversity the first thought in the decision making process, all these things are how a company builds not only a diverse environment, but an inclusive environment.
With that in mind, check out what these people are doing – small scale and large scale – to make the world a little better and a little kinder for everyone.
Ashe Dryden founded AlterConf. She wants to bring about “critical cultural discussions in tech and gaming.” As the Twitter profile for AlterConf notes, “We’re moving the diversity conversation beyond 101. Coming to a city near you!” Check out the many ways you can participate to support AlterConf.
“My favorite charity is Give Directly. It’s a very data-driven and research-backed approach to maximizing financial contributions to improve people’s lives. Being the contrarian that I am, I also love that it works so well despite so many people disbelieving and fearing its impact.”
— Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz
“1. Get involved with organizations that encourage women/girls and people/kids of color in STEAM subjects. See some groups here.
2. Join HandUp and support unhoused neighbors.
3. Volunteer. Find opportunities here.
4. Continually inform yourself about unconscious bias, privilege, and being an ally instead of expecting lesser-privileged people to educate you.
5. Talk to others about unconscious bias, privilege, and being an ally often.
6. Speak up when you see discrimination, but use your privilege to make room for lesser-privileged voices if they have the energy to say something.
7. Make it a point to expand your circle of contacts to people you don’t normally mix with.
8. When you mess up, apologize for the hurt caused and don’t focus on your own intent.”
— Michelle Glauser, Advocate & organizer of underrep-ed people in tech
“I recommend expanding your social network among marginalized people (especially queer/trans people) and spending time donating money to them when in need and also doing rideshares/car pools to help get them to informed consent clinics for hormone therapy. QT people, especially the younger ones, have so many issues with finances due to homelessness and general poverty and are also gatekept from HRT due to ridiculous and transphobic standards that are found at any clinic that is not an informed consent one.”
“There has perhaps never been a more important year in America to join, help spread the word about, and support TurboVote. Go beyond your own vote to help bring about change.”
— Raju Narisetti, Senior Vice President, Strategy, NewsCorp
“A lot of times when people think of change, they think way too big instead of focusing on the micro-interactions we have with people and the change we can bring through 1-on-1 relationships. I personally know that change won’t happen overnight but I personally commit to providing a positive influence and educating people on a daily basis through my personal interactions.
This also means going out of your way to make time. I try to take at least 30 mins – 1 hour each day to personally mentor or provide guidance to those who need it. Also make sure that your avenue of change is something you’re passionate about. It’s much easier to be dedicated to making change when you’re passionate about what you’re doing. We all have issues that matter more to us.”
— Everette Taylor, Entrepreneur & Marketing Executive
“For me, creating positive impact is about making time to help people in our everyday lives. It’s all about the small things for me, but one big thing I’ve done is co-create the Copy Muse Collective, which helps newer writers learn the ropes of freelancing from established writers. I had a tough start as a content marketer, and I’m passionate about making that path easier for others to follow so that more women can define their own career paths outside of male-dominated spaces.”
— Lauren Van Mullem, Founder of Truer Words