Creating a Welcoming and Diverse Space Part 2
Do you run a WordPress event, but noticed only one type of person is attending? You’d love to have more diversity in your group, but folks are either not showing up – or they attend once and don’t come back. What can you do to foster, promote, and support diversity and an inclusive space? In this workshop, we’ll cover 5 topics: Shifting the way you think about diversity; how to attract and foster a diverse community; creating a welcoming environment, both in person and online; how to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to step up to be speakers and leaders; and how to be a better ally. You will walk away with an action list to start making changes right away. This is not just for organizers, but anyone who wants to champion this kind of environment, now or in the future! Bring an electronic device or computer: We will be working with a workbook PDF and there will be an opportunity to anonymously submit those questions you’ve always wanted to know but been afraid to ask.
Allie Nimmons 0:05
Final section, section number five: allyship, not to be confused with Allie-ship. Yeah, we’ve made that joke so many times. Yeah, so now that we’ve talked about community and space and speakers, we’re going to kind of wrap all of that back up and kind of go back into what Aruba was talking about at the beginning with mindset, specifically, the mindset and the actions that are necessary in order to be an ally for underserved communities. So nobody just wakes up one day and is an ally, right? It’s something that you do on a consistent basis, that you talk about on a consistent basis, that you think about on a consistent basis, right? It’s something we aspire to be. What we do wake up with every day is privilege and privilege is a superpower. It’s something that we can use for good; it’s something that we can use to help others. No matter who you are in the world, you have privilege. Everyone in this room has privilege, has power to affect change, and to help other people. I, myself, had a really good education growing up. I had attentive and loving parents, I have access every day to clean food and clean water. I am also female; I am also black; I am also queer; and to some people, that equates to having no privilege and no power at all. But that’s just not true. When we think of privilege, a lot of times we think of white privilege, or we think of male privilege, right? Because in our community, or I should say in the community in this country, the culture of this country, those groups of people tend to have more power than other people do. And so that’s kind of where our minds go. But that’s really not how we should be thinking about this. It’s not about who has more privilege or less privilege. It’s about what we do with that privilege, and what we do with that power, and how we use it to help other people. So I will challenge you for a moment to think about the privileges that you have, right the things about your life that you are grateful for, that you can use to help other people. A couple months ago, I asked some people on Twitter, what are some privileges that you have outside of race, gender, and sexuality? And these are some of the answers that I got. And some of them are kind of funny, like someone said, being tall, they consider that a privilege, which I agree with, because I’m short. But some of these are very important and very serious, right? Reliable health care for some people is a privilege, because for many people, a lot of these things are expensive, or borderline impossible to have. And so these are all things that we can be grateful for, right, and that we can use in order to help other people. In order to create diverse and inclusive spaces, in order to create and foster and nurture diverse, inclusive, happy communities, we have to recognise that there is a need for allyship and that there are opportunities for allyship that we can take. You may be thinking, why are we talking about this at a WordPress conference? Right? WordPress is pretty inclusive, it’s pretty diverse already. But we still have a lot of work to do and we are pretty big, substantial subset of the tech community as a whole. These are some statistics that I found that apply to the tech industry. Some of these are about the tech industry, some of these are just general statistics that apply to this country. 75% of all computing jobs in this country are held by men even though women count for 50% of the population. 83% of tech executives are white. 60% of states in the US don’t have a ban on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. They don’t have both. They either have one, the other, or neither. And 8% of disabled individuals are unemployed, which is with non disabled individuals, the unemployment is at about 4%. So these are all big picture things, right? These are national statistics. What can we do in our communities and our workplaces and schools and neighbourhoods to create some sort of a change, right to help these sorts of statistics to improve.
And I have four actionable points for you. And the acronym that we’re going to use to remember them is less: L-E-S-S. So the L stands for “learn about and create safe environments.” So notice that learning comes before creating, right? For a lot of people, some environments are not safe for them, or they do not feel safe in those environments. And as an ally, you can make sure that that environment is safe for them. You can help them feel safer in that environment. If some if you notice that somebody is being mistreated, if somebody is being harassed or abused, escorting them away from that situation is usually the best thing that you can do. Right? Our parents always told us, “What do bullies hate?” being ignored. They like being engaged with. What they don’t like is being ignored. We need to be able to create and also encourage these safe spaces to have safe conversations. The organisers of this camp accomplish that by inviting us and allowing us to have this workshop with you all today. We need to walk the talk… walk the walk and talk the talk. It needs to be verbal; these are things we need to talk about together in our communities but there’s also action that needs to be taken in order to make these environments safe. And to circle back to learning, we need to make sure that we educate ourselves, as well as ask others, what they need out of our communities to make them safe. As an ally, you cannot create change based on your own individual experiences; you have to learn where others are coming from.
The E stands for “expand your sphere of influence,” right? Jump into new groups. Maybe today, you were really, really excited to see some people you haven’t seen in a long time and so you ate lunch with your friends. Maybe tomorrow, eat lunch with a group of people that you’ve never met before; ask if you can sit with them and learn about them. Take in content written by people or created by people who are different from you. Seek out that sort of content. Learn about the experiences that other people are having. Look at this as a way to expand your worldview, not as a niche or a novel experience. Simply, on social media or or however you choose to engage with people, follow and engage with people who are different from you. It sounds simple, it sounds easy, but we don’t do it very much.You will find that common ground.
The first S stands for “say something,” right? Speak up when it is necessary. It doesn’t mean that you have to cut ties with any person who ever makes an off colour joke. But it does mean pointing out injustice, pointing out situations where somebody is being made to feel unsafe. It means stepping in when you can. It means talking to people who are in positions of power and letting them know when something is going on. It means complaining about oppression alongside those who are being oppressed. And these are things that you can do in private. Saying something speaking out doesn’t mean that you have to say it in front of a whole bunch of people. You can say something in private, or you can say it in public, depending on what the situation calls for.
And sometimes “Say nothing.” Listening is the most important part of being an ally. Step out of the way. Don’t chime in, don’t share your opinion sometimes. Let somebody else have that moment. Actively listen and allow people to tell their stories. There’s so many unique stories that don’t get told because that space is not being made for those individuals. Having someone else or allowing somebody else or encouraging somebody else to share a unique story doesn’t diminish from your own. It doesn’t take away from your own, but you’re giving back to somebody else. So as a summation, if you’d like a Twitter photo, they’re right here and I wrote a blog post a little while ago about being an ally and this is pulled directly from that post. And so I’ll tweet that out later if you want to read more about this sort of thing.
Alrighty, so let’s dive into the exercises for this one. Maybe mentally, take a moment to personally identify which of the following you feel is the way that you’re most comfortable being an ally because being an ally is not about doing everything, right. It’s not about solving every single problem. It’s about finding the way that you can use your superpower to help other people. So if that’s about helping to create safer environments, expanding that sphere of influence, speaking up for others, or being the person that says “Hey, I’m going to let you step forward and I’m going to take a step back.” And in addition to that, in the workbook, there is a long list of things that you can do, of resources that you can read, videos that you can watch, of sort of pledges that you can make to yourself. And so I challenge you to choose two to three of those to watch, read, listen to, engage in, to help yourself get into this mindset of being an ally for other people. So we’ll give you about five minutes to read over that list and maybe mark off a couple that you want to save for later.
Aurooba Ahmed 10:32
All right, hopefully, you were able to mark down a few things. And that is a lot of information that we just covered. – Can we go next on the slide- which is why we created this workbook because you can take it home with you, save it, look through it, refer to it. And it could also be helpful to work through it again, perhaps with other team members or other people that you want to involve that could also have good input. Because diversity in perspectives, right? Which, whatever you’re doing, remember, it all first starts with mindset, with the acronym A.L.S.O. So Acknowledge your lack in diversity or the fact that you can improve, make sure you’re Listening, actively listening to different perspectives, and take care in the way you Speak so you speak inclusively, and remain Open-minded to other people’s perspectives and ways of doing things, which is covered in everything else, for example, with what we… with all… with what Allie talked about. In community, there’s three main ideas: Attitudes, Interests, and Goals. And they help us create, foster, and preserve a community that is well-meshed. And within that community, you’ll naturally have leadership and for particularly, you’ll have speakers in the kind of communities that we tend to run in the WordPress community. And they provide expertise and guidance. And if we’re going to create an inclusive and welcoming space, these folks should, ideally, be diverse as well. And representing that other people in the community that look like them and seem like them. And we want to find ways to encourage all kinds of different people in the community. And the most effective way to do that is outreach and making them feel welcome. Definitely check out the speaker training workshop al tiny.cc/WPdiversity that Jill leads. And it goes further into detail about how you can foster diversity and encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come out and feel less nervous and create great talks so that they can speak and represent other people like them. Now you can have a great community, you can have great leadership and have great speakers; however, if your physical space is not inclusive, and if it’s not going to be welcoming, then all the work that you’re doing, it’s not going to result in as many people being able to come out the way that you’d like to your space, to your event. So consider the many things that are listed that Jill talked about and are also in the workbook. And remember that personally welcoming folks, when they come into your space coming to your events is a fantastic way to add a touch that they’ll remember, especially if they’re nervous, especially if they feel like they stand out too much, or they’re new and they don’t know anyone. It can be really helpful for them if you, as part of the leadership, are going and personally welcoming them. And finally, the big takeaway that we want all of you to take from this workshop is our allyship, A.K.A, “Allie-ship.” This [inaudible] this so many every time we met, every time we’ve met that we’ve done that. So allyship, Allie or “Allie-ship,” they both work.
Allie Nimmons 14:07
I’m okay with it. I’m okay with “Allie-ship.” Yeah.
Aurooba Ahmed 14:10
It’s a mindset. And it’s like the tenants of also, sort of, put into action in with another acronym L.E.S.S, you know, Learn, Expand your sphere of influence, Say something when you see injustice happening, and sometimes Say nothing so that other people who don’t speak out as much have space to do so. So that’s like a little recap. We have a bunch of questions in Slido. And of course, feel free to ask some more after that as well. So let’s go into the q&a.
Unknown Speaker 14:47
Unknown Speaker 14:49
Allie Nimmons 14:51
All right. So let’s dive right into these questions. We have three really, really good ones and then we got one in person and they kind of overlap so maybe we’ll answer that one first. Basically, the question is, “What if I can’t find diverse groups in my community?” You know that they’re there, you know they exist, but you’re having trouble finding them and maybe approaching them, so on and so forth. I’ll… we’ll just go down the row and and chime in with our unique perspectives. If you’re not sure where those people are or where to find them, the internet is the greatest tool that we have in the 21st century. If you have access to social media where you are, if you’re in a different country, a lot of groups… what will happen is a lot of minority groups, right, will go ahead and form their own groups, right, which is why we have stuff like Black Girls Code, because in the coding community in general, black girls are not always the most prevalent community. So they tend to… we tend to form our own. And so if you can use social media, if you can use Facebook, if you can use Twitter, if you can use LinkedIn, YouTube, any way to literally search “black coders” you know, things like that, that will allow you to find those communities and extend an invitation to them and say hey. It’s okay to say “I’m looking to make my community more diverse, I’m looking to make my event more diverse.” That’s, that’s not a bad thing to say, to acknowledge that, “You would make my community better, you know, I’m experiencing a deficit. My community is not as diverse as I want it to be; I need your help, Will you please come?” is a fantastic way to do that.
Aurooba Ahmed 16:38
So going off of what Allie is talking about, a very practical tip that I have personally used myself is to find a hashtag that’s related to the kind of diversity you might be looking for. And then also find the hashtag for your location, your city or your country. And then search both of these things together on Twitter, on Instagram, even Google, and people will start to pop up and you don’t need a lot. You could find one or two people. And then if you reach out to them, you can ask them, “Hey, where can I… where do you hang out? I want to connect with you. And I want to…” You know, and then tell them a little bit about your event or your community and you can get the conversation started that way. Another way that we were kind of talking about is if you know a person from that group, or other groups that are diverse that you would like to invite into your community or your event, talk to them. If you personally don’t know someone, 100% you know someone who does. This is where Facebook is your friend. Creep your friends’ friends lists and find out and then talk to them.
David Wolfpaw 17:48
I would also suggest looking at places that are not necessarily related to the community that you’re in. For instance, with our WordPress meetups, a lot of the people who attend our meetups are small business owners. So not only would I look for people who would talk specifically about WordPress, but we’ve had meetups for people. We’ve had lawyers come in, you know talk about things that would relate to small businesses, people who are involved in accounting for small businesses, project managers. I would also suggest looking in related communities and going to their events. So for instance, not that they’re very dissimilar, but I go to the DrupalCamp in Orlando and I’ve seen some great speakers there. I also go to an event called Florida BlogCon and I see great speakers there. They don’t necessarily use WordPress, but I say, “Hey, we have this event, I would love to hear you give a talk similar to what you gave here in our group.” It is easier to get a buy-in from somebody who already, you know, had taken the time to prepare a talk.
So those were all great points on how to reach out to get people. And the two things I’m going to quickly say one is, it might look like your community is homogeneous, but it is very, very unlikely that it is actually. There could be a lot of people who are just not coming out to the events because they just don’t know that it’s going to be welcoming and inclusive. And so putting some of these things into place that we’ve talked about- the accessibility accommodations and the the templates on how to make it more welcoming- will start to bring more people out as well and making sure that the things are clear in your event description so that people know that it will be a safe place for them, especially the accessibility accommodations.
David Wolfpaw 19:37
One more point, just on a more personal note, I’ve been involved in the WordPress Orlando community since we started about eight years ago. And very recently, I have made a very explicit point to step back from a lot of the events that we do, and I have noticed that we’ve already had several new meetups with new speakers who I’ve never… people who I did not know before already get created. I want to go back to the final S of you know, sometimes “say nothing.” If you are already heavily involved in your own community, you may notice as I noticed that you kind of take up a lot more space than you might necessarily otherwise do. You know, I, I unwittingly created like a vacuum where everyone looks to me to create events. By stepping back a bit, and I’m looking at Sam, because I know he’s been more involved in that too, by stepping back from doing those events very explicitly, I have, not purposefully but I’ve made, I’ve made space for other people to start planning things that I would not have found.
Allie Nimmons 20:43
Awesome. So we have about five minutes left so we’re gonna move through these next few questions fairly quickly but you can find all of us afterward to talk more about this. Absolutely. The next question is, basically, “If you have two speakers that apply to speak at about the same thing. One is more qualified, but the other helps foster diversity. Which one do you choose?” Which I’ve heard that question before. I personally think that everything is about balance. So if you find that, you know, I have… I have a decent amount of speakers on my list right now who are very qualified, give that other person an opportunity. Or if you found that, hey, this year, I’ve really put an emphasis on diversity and so I’ve got a really good group of diverse individuals, go ahead and tip the scale that way. And the the point of all of this right is to make sure that it’s level that it’s equal, that it’s fair, right? We’re not trying to give anyone premium treatment or special treatment or anything like that, we want to make sure that it’s fair and that it’s balanced. So that is… that’s my… that’s how I would tackle that problem.
Aurooba Ahmed 21:56
The point I want to make, it’s also something to always keep in mind with anything that you’re doing in this way, is, “why does it have to be either-or?” Well, as someone who is in the leadership position, could you proposition to these two people that, “Hey, would you be interested in doing this talk together, and bring your own perspectives to it,” which is exactly what happened here, by the way. And we are all here and we all have different perspectives, and we’re presenting together, a lot of people will be open to it. And let’s say the person… one of them is a little bit more nervous, or you know, had to be really encouraged. Knowing that they won’t be alone can be a confidence booster and can help them. So it’s not always either-or, sometimes you can find ways to make both things happen together. That’s like one of the privileges of being in leadership and being able to do that.
David Wolfpaw 22:52
And as we said, everybody has a different perspective, a different take, just to double down on what Aurooba said, that you could still have, even if the people let’s say, aren’t doing a presentation together, chances are they’re not going to be wanting to talk about the exact same topic. By that. I mean, they could might want to both talk about plugin security, let’s say, but there’s two ways they could approach even what seems like a niche topic. And it might be good to pair those talks together. We’ve had events where we have two talks that are similar for maybe different skill sets or for a different part of that nation.
I agree with everything awesome, quick things to add again. One is, you know, the person who asked question, it may be true that one is actually more qualified than the other but just don’t conflate diverse means not qualified. So that is one of the things to keep in mind of look at the actual situation. And the other thing is, I personally believe that having the different perspectives of somebody who’s diverse brings such a richness to the event that it if all the other factors that people talked about weren’t in play and I just literally have the two people, I would pick the diverse one because it would bring different perspectives, unique thoughts, different background, etc.
Allie Nimmons 24:13
Okay, we have one minute so lightning answer. “When starting out a group, diversity grows person by person, how can you make sure that the first person in…” I think they mean the first diverse person to attend… “doesn’t feel out of place.” Make them know that you are really happy that they’re there. Welcome them, talk to them, not about what makes them diverse, but what makes them special, what makes them awesome, what makes them talented, what they’re passionate about. Encourage them to return and encourage them to bring friends.
Aurooba Ahmed 24:45
Ask them tons of questions. Seriously. Just ask them about their interests and everything. Find out why they’re here so that you can make more of that happen. And they will feel like, “Wow, I was so welcomed. I’m definitely coming back and maybe I’m going to bring a friend.” I literally did that.
Same thing and review things in the workshop on our welcoming speaker templates, attitudes, goals, interests, etc. Yeah.
David Wolfpaw 25:17
Make people feel welcome, but also maybe in opposition to that, make them feel normalised being there, as in don’t be like, oh latch on to someone so much that they feel out of place or, you know, unwelcome in the way that they’re like, an oddity to be there. You can feel normal.
Aurooba Ahmed 25:38
All right. Thank you so much, everyone. Those are our Twitter handles again, and we’re all around and very easy to spot for the most part and come talk to us. We’re all human beings who love talking. I especially love talking; we all love talking. We’re up here talking.
Allie Nimmons 25:54
I just wanted to say really quickly to thank you for being here. Because if you look around, there’s not a lot of people here. It’s not the sexiest topic in the entire world so we really appreciate you taking an hour and 45 minutes out of this camp to learn about this sort of stuff with us. We have our feedback form, which is available at that link tiny.cc/diversityworkshopfeedback. And this is going to end up being a… What is the term?
A self-guided training
Allie Nimmons 26:26
Self-guided training in the future. So other people are going to be doing this presentation again, and we want to make sure that it is improved upon based on how you received it, what you thought was great, what you thought could be improved, so on and so forth. And so we’re very eager to hear all of that from you.
Aurooba Ahmed 26:43
It’s just four questions. So it’s very, very quick and we’d super appreciate it.
One last quick plug. Tomorrow I’m doing a q&a about the speaker workshop that we do. It’s at 11 o’clock at the Get Involved WordPress booth
Aurooba Ahmed 27:04
In the sponsors’ area.
I lead the Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress.org Community Team. We have a workshop that encourages more diverse folks to apply to speak at WordPress events.
I helped organize the first BuddyCamp and for three years co-organized WordCamp Vancouver. I was named one of the top 100 Influencers of WordPress in 2014 by Torque Magazine and one of the top 10 Women of WordPress by CloudWays.
Interests: content-first web development, PHP, JS, React, HTML, CSS
I care about friendly useable websites built with clean and elegant code. Always doing my best to keep learning and building my best.