But this is exactly how a lot of Women In Tech community leaders feel when they get queries like these.
“Can you send two girls to my event next week?”
“Do you have 10 participants for the startup program for my college?”
Tell me if this doesn’t have a tone like “Can I have two packets of Noodles please?”
Back in August 2017, when myself and Sreepriya attended the ICFOSS women’s hackathon, Women In Tech initiatives in Kerala were extremely low, next to null. But almost a year and a half down, activities triggered by PEHIA Foundation, and similar have risen umpteen organizations from the dead and created new ones; the landscape has changed drastically. There is an increased awareness about gender disparity, more importantly, the process that leads to this disparity. Every community and organization around has done something or other for the cause. FB Developers Women’s Day Celebrations, Rethink’s WIT Program, Tinkerhub’s Lean In, and the regular WIE (IEEE Women In Engineering) and WTM ( Google Women Tech Makers) efforts that are back in the picture are stronger than ever before.
But these created new questions like “Is it fair that she gets the job only cause she is a girl?” or accusations like “So companies should hire lesser quality women developers over well-trained male developers just to improve diversity? Isn’t it discrimination to a better male candidate?” That question was wrong on so many levels, but I kinda found a few startups looking to improve diversity commit that mistake. While the mindset is right, it’s a poor and costly business decision. A lot of us were understanding the problem and more importantly the solutions to be applied — wrong.
I knew this was wrong, but didn’t know the right words to describe it. I spend quite some time reading on similar cases about other biases pertinent in our society and cases that mention discrimation to the majority to grip the idea, identify the pattern and discover the solution. One of the best and most easily understandable might be this very interesting and insightful standup by Hasan Minhaj on Netflix’s popular show — Patriot Act.
Affirmative Actions Versus Quota
Due to the lack of better example, quoting from the above show,
The difference between Affirmative action and Quota is the “the difference between saying “Hey I should have more diverse friends” versus “I need two more black friends”. One of these is affirmative action the other is the plot of Get Out”
Non-strict definitions follow.
What is the Quota System?
Any hiring or admissions policy requiring that a specified number or percentage of minority group members be hired or admitted.
What do you mean by Affirmative Actions?
It is a set of programs designed to address historic injustices against specific groups by making special efforts to provide members of these groups with access to employment and educational opportunities.
So isn’t Quota system basically affirmative action?
Quota System is a type of Affirmative Action, but in my opinion, an outdated one. A before Adam and Eve method, of achieving equality.
While Quota Systems are a quick fix to what numbers we would like to see, it’s isn’t the right way to do do.
What we expect in the next some years would be an x tends to zero situation, not an x=0. Surely we hope someday it will lie in the gray area of between -1 and 1, but for now the graph has to come slowly and steadily all the way from the other end and move closer and closer to the goal, not the quick bandaid method.
No, and a very strict No. A woman shouldn’t get in a role, just to fill in the diversity quota. Lowering standards to meet ( There are a lot of amazing women developers out there — really good, meeting and exceeding industry requirements.) a diversity number is just gonna hurt a lot of people — the firm, the attitude of women in tech, a better-qualified candidate, underestimating good women devs. Not good news anyway.
A woman shouldn’t get in a role, just to fill in the diversity quota but because she deserves it and her being a woman shouldn’t negatively affect her.
If not quota, then what? If not this, then what do we do?
As the definition of Affirmative Actions goes — make special efforts to provide members of these groups with access to employment and educational opportunities.
Stereotypes preventing a girl from getting an equal technical atmosphere as a child — conduct special awareness sessions to make up for that.
Large number rape cases reported preventing her guardians from allowing her to attend a hackathon or conference — Team up with other girls or if you are guy, offer to go with her, help her convince her parents.
Hiring — Not discriminate would be a starter for affirmative action. Drop the assumptions like ‘Women can’t work at night. Women CAN like any other gender of human beings. It’s just that nights have larger crime rates(not sure. At least that’s what we believe) and hence more unsafe, and using this as a reason to get out of work early is way more comfortable than grinding through the night.
Minority Privilege tbh. Shake that off, instead, find ways to ensure that the city is safer or that she has a good defense or ensure that she reached back home safely.
These are harder and Quota is way easier. But this is the updated version of the solution and this gives better results. It’s not without its fair share of problems, but this is definitely better than our old solutions. So until the next update, we have gotta work with this.
So let our questions be framed better like below.
“Hey. There are two tickets left for the event. Can you think of anyone in your community that can make use of it?”
“Hey, we have a requirement for 5 JS devs. Can you please pass this along to anyone in PEHIA who might meet the requirements?”
“Hey, we have this cool event coming up at college tomorrow. We have a good number of guys registering but not girls. Probably because not a lot of them came to know. Can you share this so that interested girls may register”
psst..solving lack of exposure by injecting initial exposure.
An additional — Let me know if they need any special help — would be a HUGE BONUS!
So in conclusion — let’s try to solve things at the root than mess up and create new problems by going for the quick fix.