Slides from WordCamp Cape Town 2018. Covers diversity, inclusion, intersectionality, marginalization, privilege, structural barriers, visions & values for an inclusive environment, how to deal with boundary violations.
How to create a welcoming environment in your tech space
How to create a welcoming
environment in your tech space
WordCamp Cape Town 2018
Speaking the same language
Defining the terms used to create a welcoming environment
Refers to having a variety of people in your group
with different characteristics.
Refers to how people feel in a space. “Inclusion
is not about a person changing to fit in, but rather
about the environment shifting to accommodate
those things that make each person unique.”
Refers to the interconnected nature of social
categorizations such as race, class and gender
as they apply to a given individual or group
regarded as creating overlapping and
interdependent of systems of discrimination or
The treatment of a person, group, or concept as
insignificant or peripheral.
A subtle but offensive comment or action
directed at a minority or other nondominant
group that is often unintentional or
unconsciously reinforces a stereotype
Privilege is not:
● That you haven’t had a hard life, but that the
area in which you are privileged is not one of
the things making it harder.
● An indictment on you or your character
An issue that is beyond one’s personal control
that is part of the context or environment that is
related to belonging to a particular group. For
example being in a rural area or in a situation of
What’s the point?
Reasons to talk and care about diversity and inclusion
Global problem, local context
● These problems don’t just occur in South Africa.
● People are not good at seeing what is on the periphery.
● South Africa has the advantage of a acknowledging the
structures and talking about them. Our challenge is action.
● These topics are uncomfortable, and force us to look at our
baggage. We need to lean into the discomfort.
Increases skills pool
Numbers not reported in South Africa.
2017 estimate in the United States that by 2020
there will be 1 million unfilled coding positions
due to a lack of education.
“This was demonstrated in the case of Vodacom employee
Nkosana Makate’s multi-billion rand ‘Please Call Me’ concept.
Makate said the idea came to him after yet another fight with
his girlfriend, who claimed he wasn’t calling her due to a lack
- A Journey of Diversity and Inclusion in South Africa by Nene
BTW, It’s the law in South Africa
The South African Constitution binds both the government and private entities to
the rights in the Bill of Rights and requires that private entities and people give
effect to the rights enshrined within it.
Section 9 of the Bill of Rights:
“3. The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds,
including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation,
age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
4. No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in
terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or
prohibit unfair discrimination.”
This stuff shouldn't matter
Looking at the world the way that it really is
“You like diversity when it’s
about stuff that shouldn’t
matter (gender, skin colour,
sexual preferences) but less so
when it affects something that
Oh come on it’s not that bad
Some examples of people getting it wrong
An extra definition: Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that
seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in
members of a targeted group, making them question their
own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial,
misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to
destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim's belief.
Being called a “c***” was far less damaging than
everything else. Because I knew that was
inappropriate. Everything else was was much
easier to internalise.
“I thought a lot about leaving, because how do you not think about leaving when
some dude bullies you for a year and then calls you a “c***” and nothing happens
and oh yeah he still works there even now, and when HR use the fact that you were
sexually assaulted to gaslight you.” - Cate
Netflix and a word beginning with “N”
● Netflix has a reputation for firing swiftly and brutally.
● Jonathan Friedland, whose use of the N-word in a staff
meeting this February 2018 resulted in his termination
four months later
"Hey, honey, could you get us some coffee? Thanks."
Karen Walrond - Lead Counsel for a multi-million
dollar software company. Was asked to be in a
meeting because of her expertise with software
and other technology.
Walks into the meeting room and two men are
already there and having a conversation.
‘One of them saw me enter, and smiled. "Hey,
honey, could you get us some coffee? Thanks.”
Visions & Values for an inclusive
If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there
A statement of what the ideal environment in a
space will look like
These are the things that you actually do.
How do you behave towards people who are
different? (Including on skills)
We don’t need more
spaces, we need to
make our existing
These should exist alongside but not as a
replacement for inclusive spaces.
There purpose is to provide a safe space for a
group of people with similar backgrounds to
discuss their experiences.
Group Identity & Self Policing
● A group’s identity is built by its actions. As such, harmful
behaviour from one of the members of the group hurts the
entire group. And conversely, positive behaviour from of
the members of the group benefits the entire group.
● Self policing refers to an organization that is responsible
for its own compliance to legal, safety and ethical
This is difficult
Breaking down years of systematic barriers takes
work. We are in uncharted territory.
We need people to help us feel safe, and model
People are watching
● How you interact with newcomers
● How you interact with people when you disagree
● How you interact with people when they are less
powerful than you
● How you handle violations of boundaries
● Your language
The Paradox of Tolerance
Identified by Karl Popper:
A tolerant society must not tolerate intolerance
because if it does only the intolerant will remain
in the group and the group will have become
Things that you can do to make
people feel welcome
Tips, techniques and action points
Have rules & enforce them
● Have an explicit code of conduct and enforce
them for everyone.
● Leaders and people in a position of power
should be held accountable.
Assume reports are true
False reports happen but are rare.
Investigate claims thoroughly.
Watch for boundary pushing
Generally, either harmless and the behaviour will
be changed when brought to the person’s
A person who enjoys pushing the boundaries of
Have a deep bench
No person in an organization should be
Flatten the hierarchy
An explicit flat hierarchy is better than an
Make sure that there is a clear process for
people to complain about others who are in a
position of power.
Have policies & procedures
This allows you to figure out how you want to
respond to a situation before it arises.
Be flexible with reporting procedures - often
people will report to a person they feel safe with
rather than on an organogram.
How to be an ally
It’s easier for an ally to act because they don’t face the same
repercussions as a marginalized person for speaking up
Privilege can be used for good
● Position to amplify other voices
● Be open to sharing your skills and networks
with those who are not in the same group
Be a witness not a bystander
Acknowledge and validate the other person’s
“Yes, thing happened. It was inappropriate and
you are not imagining it or over-reacting”
Calling out bad behaviour
This is about what a person did, not about who
“You said a bad word. That is not acceptable.
Don’t do it again.”
How to respond to casual ~ism
● Practice simple responses (Awkward, Not cool)
● Be short, simple and firm
● Don’t try to be funny
● Play to the audience
● Amplify voices of marginalized people when it is positive
How to respond to casual ~ism
● Speak up when it is a negative for marginalized people to
be the centre of attention
● Speak for yourself; state your values
● Pick your battles
● Don’t expect praise and credit for fighting inequality
● When you make a mistake, apologize, correct yourself,
and move on
Be a person that
makes others feel
safe & welcome in
When you get it wrong
Intentions, impact & apologies
Impact > intent
● “But you must understand, it wasn’t meant like that.”
● “You are taking this to seriously.”
● “You are blowing this out of proportion”
● The person injured is the person who gets to decide what
the impact was. Intentions are irrelevant when it comes to
impact but intentions do matter.
It doesn’t matter how you
mess up, it matters how you
Learn from it
Do better next time
How to apologize
● Take responsibility. Express regret and show remorse, be
brief and to the point. (I’m sorry that …)
● Avoid conditional language (No if’s or but’s)
● Make amends. If there is anything that you can do to
mend the situation do it.
● The best apology is a change in behaviour.