Supporting the PHP Diversity movement is only the beginning. The diversity / rainbow elePHPant might be proudly on your desk, but the real elephant is still in the room.
Acknowledging the diversity problem within tech communities is the first step in making a change. Silicon Valley may be content to avoid the issue by blaming the pipeline, but you can make a difference in your community right now.
The real problem is not the pipeline, it’s what happens after; feeling excluded forces minorities to change their path, and our behaviour is the only way to change that.
The culture that surrounds us as we grow up with has a direct and lasting impact on how we perceive the world around us and how we act. Some grow up hearing that they are not good enough, others believing that they can do anything.
In the end, how we treat others within a mixed community has a huge impact on people feeling included and performing better.
When it comes to leaders in tech industry, the diversity issue is there too. A majority of people with leading positions at top companies are white men; same when you look at the list of speakers at a conference. This is not because those underrepresented groups can't lead, but because the community does not accept them as leaders or because they themselves feel inhibited by the actions or inactions of the community.
Although we hope that by now most organisations at least have a hiring policy that attempts to discriminate only on their suitability for the job, the culture within a company is much more nuanced.
This culture, that forms part of your own personal responsibility, has a significant influence over whether that colleague grows within the organisation or seeks an alternative career path. Even when companies get diversity recruitment right, the conditions are not right to retain and nurture those staff over the long term.
A lack of genuine diversity runs through all corners of all tech communities. Groups and meetups are formed on the basis of commonality rather than difference: women who code, queer coders etc. are great projects that help to spark interest, but as projects run by people from that respective community for people in that community do they promote genuine diversity? Or do they inadvertently encourage isolation?
You could even say the same about conferences that focus on a specific technology or programming language: maybe we should encourage these individually great groups to mix in order to normalise the idea that great people exist from all walks of life.
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